Remote desert powering electric car revolution (Crossroads Today – February 10, 2020)


Lithium is the key element for rechargeable batteries used in phones and Formula E cars. But where is it farmed and how? The answer lies in Chile.

Sleek and futuristic Formula E cars zoom through cityscapes across the globe at speeds of over 170 miles per hour, traveling from zero to 60 in just 2.8 seconds. If electricity is the crucial “E” of Formula E that’s because cars on the track are powered by a 200 kilowatt battery provided by McLaren Applied.

Last month the Formula E circus was in South America for the Santiago ePrix — the city has been the noisy metropolitan home to Chile’s Formula E race for three consecutive years. Seven hundred miles north of the capital is the utterly desolate Atacama desert and it’s here that you find the source helping power Formula E.

Salt Flats

The sun beats down and punishes the landscape here, where the annual rainfall measures barely a few millimeters. This might seem a barren wasteland, but it’s also home to one of the most valuable and crucial minerals to modern life: lithium.

It’s a substance that’s important because it allows the storage of energy in rechargeable batteries, which are used in homes, laptops, electric wheelchairs, solar energy panels — and electric vehicles. Chile has a lot of lithium. The South American country has been described as the “Saudi Arabia” of lithium owing to the rich reserves it holds in its salt flats.

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