Apr 02, 2021

BMW inks $335mn lithium supply deal with Livent

BMW
Lithium
Livent
EVs
Daniel Brightmore
4 min
Livent
BMW Group steps up sustainable sourcing of lithium with Livent for battery cell production to ensure rapid e-mobility expansion...

The BMW Group will be accelerating its expansion of e-mobility in the coming years. This will also increase the need for lithium, an important raw material for production of battery cells. For this reason, the company will source lithium from a second leading supplier, US-based Livent. The value of the multi-year contract will total around $335mn (€285mn). Livent will supply the lithium directly to the BMW Group’s battery cell manufacturers from 2022 onwards.

Electric Vehicles

By 2030, at least half the BMW's global sales are expected to come from fully-electric vehicles. 

“Lithium is one of the key raw materials for electromobility. By sourcing lithium from a second supplier, we are securing requirements for production of our current fifth generation of battery cells. At the same time, we are making ourselves technologically, geographically and geopolitically less dependent on individual suppliers,” commented Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network.

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Sustainability

BMW previously signed a contract for the procurement of lithium from so-called hard-rock deposits at Australian mines back in 2019. Now, the company is broadening its supplier base and additionally sourcing lithium from Argentina, where the raw material is obtained from brine from salt lakes. Livent employs an innovative method, that emphasises sustainable water use and minimises the impact on local ecosystems and communities. The company will also contribute important data to the study of sustainable lithium mining initiated by the BMW Group.

The BMW Group sources critical raw materials like lithium and cobalt directly from producers and makes them available to its battery cell suppliers. In this way, the company creates complete transparency over the origin and mining methods of the material.

Lithium

The salt lakes in the border region between Argentina, Bolivia and Chile are home to roughly half the world’s lithium reserves. In conventional lithium mining, brine from the layers below the salt lakes is pumped out of the ground and evaporated in shallow basins.

Livent obtains lithium from a brine resource in northern Argentina, using a proprietary method that is particularly sustainable. To minimise the impact on the surrounding ecosystem, most of the brine used is returned directly to the surrounding habitat and not evaporated. This largely preserves the balance between the brine layers and groundwater layers. Solvents and other chemicals do not come into contact with the environment during this process. It also takes up much less space, since evaporation basins are barely used. The company is also involved in local educational programmes and infrastructure measures.

IRMA (Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance)

The BMW Group became the first automotive manufacturer worldwide to join the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) in early 2020. IRMA is a multi-stakeholder governed initiative that has developed guidelines for responsible extraction of raw materials and defined strict requirements for meeting its environmental and social standards. The BMW Group has set itself the goal of having mining suppliers certified according to this standard in the future. On the recommendation of the BMW Group, Livent has now become a pending member of IRMA, signifying its commitment to undergo a third-party audit in IRMA. Livent is the first company with mining operations in Argentina to have made this commitment, and one of the first lithium mining companies in the world to do so.

E-Mobility

The BMW Group will already have about a dozen fully-electric models on the roads from 2023. Between now and 2025, the BMW Group will increase its sales of fully-electric models by an average of well over 50 percent per year – more than ten times the number of units sold in 2020. By the end of 2025, the company will have delivered a total of around two million fully-electric vehicles to customers.

Based on its current market forecast, the company expects at least 50 percent of its global sales to come from fully-electric vehicles in 2030. At this point, there will no longer be any segment position in the BMW Group’s entire product portfolio where the company does not offer at least one fully-electric model. The company will also be capable of handling a much larger percentage of fully-electric vehicles if demand develops accordingly. In total, over the next ten years or so, the BMW Group will be releasing about ten million fully-electric vehicles onto the roads.

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