Bolivia’s lithium dream is nothing new. Generations of politicians have long made hollow declarations about the country’s lithium potential; but is demand finally catching up with the nation’s bountiful supply?
Practically, the compound lithium carbonate is used in small quantities in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries – common in smart phones and electric cars. As the automotive industry turns increasingly towards electric-powered and hybrid cars, the price of lithium has again been predicted to rise 20 percent by 2017.
It is thought that Bolivia harbors about half of the world’s lithium. However, it is far from certain exactly how much lies below the vast, bleached expanse of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in the southwest of Bolivia – the largest of their kind in the world.
Estimates vary wildly from the US Geological Survey’s modest nine million metric tons, to the Bolivian government’s predictably inflated assertion that a reserve of 100 million tons is waiting to be tapped, EFE reports. These figures represent totals of either 35 or 70 percent of Earth’s known lithium reserves.
The electric car is yet to convince the majority of consumers. Indeed, in his 2011 State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama called for one million electric plug-in cars to be on North American roads by 2015.
By the time 2015 had arrived, he was not even one-third of the way to meeting this target, according to Time. Despite a $7,500 tax rebate introduced for electric car buyers.
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