Lithium technology, used in electric vehicles (EV) and stationary storage, is vital for the clean energy transition. The challenge is that it's not necessarily easy to access.
"There are challenges with supply, there are challenges with making EV batteries, and bringing the costs down," says Saad Dara, CEO of Mangrove Lithium, based in Vancouver. "But we think that this is also a very big opportunity. . . "
He tells Clean Power Hour host Tim Montague that compared to traditionally mined and produced lithium, the technology Mangrove employs is positioned to make a large impact.
"There's a big gap in the refining portion of the supply chain that needs to be filled," explains Francisco Velasco, commercial VP. And that's where he sees Mangrove as an important player.
"The problem that Mangrove solves with our technology is that we allow for higher quality, higher purity, lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate to come on the market at significantly lower cost," according to Saad. "And this allows us to be able to make the technology and bring the technology to asset owners by making the projects more fundable . . . We feel that this will enable a faster timeline for the projects to come online and reduce the gap in demand and supply for lithium products or batteries."
There are currently only five big players in lithium, according to Francisco, and while they continually expand, it is not enough. So you need a more robust group of players, he says. "And that's when you have to look into the US, Canada and in Europe. Because in those places, you have lithium that hasn't been exploited."
Auto manufacturers getting into the lithium game
Among Mangrove's latest investors is BMW iVentures. It's a sign of the times that automakers know they have to be serious about their supply chain of battery materials, says host Tim Montague. "It's going to make or break their ability to deliver EVs . . . to figure out how to procure or make their own batteries."
Exactly what does Mangrove do?
Through an electrochemical technology, Mangrove takes lithium chloride or lithium sulphate from different operations, i.e., battery recycling, upstream mining, or other sources, and converts it into a lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate product. At this stage, the technology is being demonstrated at a pilot plant, with plans to build the in 2023.
Mangrove sits in the middle of the supply chain process. "So where battery manufacturing begins, is lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide being provided to them. And where lithium mining ends is a lithium chloride," Francisco explains. "Lithium heparin sulphate is in between. That is where we exist."
Hear more in this Clean Power Hour podcast about how Mangrove will work with customers to bring refining in-house to help solve supply chain challenges − not by simply selling the equipment, but by servicing them with customized solutions.