In the mountains of northern Nevada, the fuel of the future lies in the shadow of the past. Sixteen million years ago, the area now called Thacker Pass was the site of a giant volcanic eruption … and volcanologist Tom Benson has been searching the world for places just like it. He says an eruption here millions of years ago left behind the key to unlock the electric vehicle revolution.
It’s called lithium, the lightest solid element on that chart most of us only periodically remember from high school chemistry. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are what power our cell phones, computers, even toothbrushes, and are now the fuel for all those electric vehicles starting to roll off the assembly line.
Correspondent Ben Tracy asked, “What’s the connection between volcanoes and lithium?” “Pretty much all lithium comes from volcanoes,” Benson said. “In the coming years, when people are driving their electric cars down the road, there’s a good chance the lithium in that battery will come from here?”
“Yes, that’s the hope.” Benson works for Lithium Americas, a mining company that owns the rights to Thacker Pass, the largest known lithium deposit in the United States. The company expects to potentially extract 80,000 tons of lithium a year. That’s enough to power about a million vehicles.
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