October 2, 2022

A couple walks towards the coast of the Salton Sea in Southern California. The shallow salt lake was accidentally formed in 1905 after a canal ruptured that diverted water from the Colorado River into the agricultural area of ​​California’s Imperial Valley.

Robert Alexander | Stock photos | Getty Images

General Motors is in the process of securing US lithium, a metal vital to electric vehicle batteries, through a strategic investment and partnership with a company called Controlled Thermal Resources.

GM announced the deal on Friday to expedite the adoption of lithium extraction methods that are less polluting and increase domestic supplies of the metal. Both are major concerns for the Biden government as well as investors as automakers launch a number of new electric vehicles this decade.

Most of the lithium used in EV batteries is currently mined and processed outside of the United States. The country is expected to be penalized in the domestically manufacturing of battery cells, which GM is currently investing billions of dollars in to manufacture in the U.S. over the coming years.

GM said it is investing “several million” dollars in CTR, which plans to extract lithium from the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in Imperial, California. GM declined to disclose its exact investment.

As the first investor, GM said it will have the first rights to lithium produced in the first phase of the project, including an option for a multi-year contract if CTR’s lithium extraction process bears fruit.

“It has a lot of potential and GM is the first investor to work with them to really try to accelerate it,” Tim Grewe, GM’s general manager for electrification strategy and cell technology, told CNBC.

The first phase of the project, which CTR calls “Hell’s Kitchen”, is to begin with lithium production in 2024. It is set to help GM achieve its plan to eliminate tailpipe emissions from light trucks by 2035, officials said.

“By securing and locating the US lithium supply chain, we are helping ensure our ability to produce high-performing, affordable, high-mileage electric vehicles while helping to reduce our environmental footprint and bring more affordable lithium to the market bring. “Said Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, in a statement.

CTR’s lithium extraction process involves a closed, direct extraction process that GM says results in a lower physical footprint, no production residue and lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to traditional processes like mine mining or evaporation ponds.