While the current push by major auto makers to offer hybrid power plants (on the way to their ultimate goal of gasoline-free vehicles) has earned praise from environmentalists, the flip side of that coin may be lithium battery shortages.

William Tahil of Meridian International Research warns that the rush to bring hybrid and all-electric vehicles to market may lead to a critical shortage of lithium, the key ingredient in today’s long-life, rechargeable energy source of choice, Lithium ion batteries.

In a recent paper, Tahil observes that lithium supplies are already being stressed by the exploding demands of the cell phone, digital camera and portable media player markets and concludes:

“…that realistically achievable Lithium Carbonate production will be sufficient only for a small fraction of future PHEV and EV global market requirements, demand from the portable electronics sector will absorb much of the planned production increases in the next decade and that other battery technologies that use unconstrained resources should be developed for the mass automotive market.”

Tahil’s findings contrast sharply with those of other researchers who insist that global reserves of Lithium are strong. Tahil, however, warns that much of the Lithium that is technically available is either present in very low concentrations or in locations or circumstances that make it uneconomical to extract.

Former Lithium industry researcher R. Keith Evans is prominent among those who disagree with Tahil’s findings. His survey paper on the Lithium supply situation is available by request via his Web site.

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