COLUMN-Lithium supply pipeline is filling but will it be enough? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – July 19, 2017)

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – The electric vehicle revolution is gathering momentum. Barely a week goes by without a fresh, starting revelation, whether it be Sweden’s Volvo promising to phase out traditional internal combustion engines from 2019 or France aiming to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

And, of course, leading the electric charge is the poster child of the green technology revolution, Tesla, which is gearing up to roll out its Model 3, the long-awaited break-out from niche to mass market.

The ambition is to be producing 20,000 per month by the end of the year. Whether reality matches such lofty goals remains to be seen. Tesla delivered around 47,000 vehicles in the first half of the year, at the lower end of its own forecasts, due to a “severe shortfall” of battery packs.

Tesla shareholders are used to this sort of thing but the battery pack delays are a reminder that this accelerating technology revolution rests on a long, complex and still-evolving materials supply chain.

We don’t know at which precise point of that chain Tesla’s battery bottle-neck appeared, but questions over the reliability of battery materials supply go all the way up the chain to the brine lakes of the Atacama Desert in South America. Simply put, will there be enough lithium, and lithium in the right chemical composition, to support exponentially growing demand for batteries?

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