Lithium | Use and demand

Uses and Demand – In 2019, the world’s lithium demand was divided between the following applications: 65% of the world’s produced lithium was used for battery production. About 18% of the lithium was used in glass and ceramics production and another 5% was used in the production of lubricants. The remaining 12% of the world’s lithium production is distributed among various applications, such as polymer and mold production. A total of 77,000 tons of lithium were mined in 2019 (USGS 2020, exkl. USA).

Lithiumverwendung in verschiedenen Bereichen basierend auf USGS-Daten aus 2020
USGS 2020 © HWS AG / GLP

The production is concentrated in the so-called South American salares (Bolivia, Chile) with approx. 50% of the world production (based on data from 2015) as well as on minerals from (mainly pegmatitic) deposits (Australia, China) with 40% of the world production. 10% comes from other sources (Kavanagh et al. 2018).

European lithium demand based on planned increase in battery production by 2025 (assumption: 160 grams per kWh) © HWS AG / GLP

European lithium demand for the next few years can be seen from the battery production capacities that are planned or already being implemented (upper figure). Based on already planed battery production facilities alone, a lithium demand of 25,000 metric tons can be assumed for Europe in 2025., a lithium demand of 25,000 metric tons can be assumed for Europe in 2025. In 2025 this would already correspond to a demand of one fifth of the worldwide lithium production. The largest consumers of lithium are automotive battery manufacturers such as Samsung, CATL, and Northvolt (MM 2020).

The figure below shows the so-called Technology Readiness Level of different battery technologies. It is particularly noticeable that all technologies under development rely on lithium as cathode material (except for laboratory developments, which currently only achieve a TRL of 1 or 2) (Wilkenes 2020).

Overview of the technological readiness level of various battery technologies, based on Wilkenes 2020 © HWS AG / GLP
Overview of the technological readiness level of various battery technologies, based on Wilkenes 2020 © HWS AG / GLP