Lithium. We’re going to need a whole bunch of this stuff in the coming years if vehicle electrification takes off the way automakers are planning. To secure its access to this critical material, on Tuesday, GM announced it’s working with Lithium Americas to develop Nevada’s Thacker Pass mine, supposedly the largest source of lithium yet discovered in the United States. Both companies will jointly invest to fund this operation.
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Putting its money where its mouth is, GM will shell out a healthy $650 million for an equity investment in Lithium Americas. This outlay will be divided into two tranches, the first of which will be held in escrow until the raw materials producer meets certain conditions. These funds are expected to be released by the end of 2023. Once all the proverbial boxes are checked, GM will officially become a shareholder of Lithium Americas.
According to the automaker, this is the largest investment ever made by a car manufacturer to secure the raw materials needed to build batteries. Estimates from Lithium Americas suggest this Nevada project will have the capacity to support up to 1 million EVs per year, a vast number of Equinox EVs, Cadillac Lyriqs and BrightDrop Zevo 400s, to name a few of the all-electric models GM has developed.
In a released shared by the automaker, GM chair and CEO Mary Barra said they’ve already secured enough battery materials to build 1 million EVs by 2025, but they will need,muchh more than that in the coming years. “Direct sourcing critical EV raw materials and components from suppliers in North America and free-trade-agreement countries helps make our supply chain more secure, helps us manage cell costs, and creates jobs.” Sounds like a win for all parties involved.
Similarly, Lithium Americas president and CEO, Jonathan Evans, said, “The agreement with GM is a major milestone in moving Thacker Pass toward production, while setting a foundation for the separation of ourU.S.S and Argentine businesses.” He also noted, “This relationship underscores our commitment to develop a sustainable domestic lithium supply chain for electric vehicles. We are pleased to have GM as our largest investor, and we look forward to working together to accelerate the energy transition while spurring job creation and economic growth in America.”
The Thacker Pass mine is expected to start delivering lithium in the second half of 2026. It’s estimated this project will create around 1,000 construction jobs and an additional 500 in operations. GM will have exclusive access to Phase 1 production once the first tranche of its investment clears. After that, the automaker has the right of first offer on Phase 2.
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GM plans to have at least four battery cell plants in the US. The annual production of these facilities is estimated at 160 gigawatt-hours. GM is currently manufacturing Ultium batteries at its plant in Warren, Ohio, a joint venture with LG Energy Solution. An additional factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee is expected to open this year, followed in 2024 by another facility in Lansing, Michigan. GM’s three initial Ultium cell manufacturing facilities are expected to create around 6,000 construction jobs and 5,000 additional positions in operations.