Lithium – Tesla’s interest in Nigeria’s source

Lithium is an element as well as a mineral resource that occurs freely in nature and is mostly extracted through mining. It is an essential constituent for making new age rechargeable batteries used in solar panels, mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and most commonly used in electric vehicles (EVs).

Although there are other elements which are used in making rechargeable batteries, Lithium however, during these modern times is considered the most suitable because of its distinct properties. In contrast to primitive batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries charge faster, they possess longer shelf life and they have increased battery life because they contain stronger power weight despite having a lighter package.

It is evaluated that over 89million tonnes of lithium are available globally out of which about 14million tons are in reserve in; Chile (world’s largest Lithium reserve), followed by South America ahead of Australia, then Argentina and China. Other countries with availability of Lithium include Bolivia, Germany, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Ghana, Namibia, Mali, Portugal and Nigeria.

Interestingly, lithium was discovered in Nigeria in 2018 and ever since then, various mining companies including Tesla, Inc, have been showing interest in its mining sector.

Tesla, Inc, popularly known as Tesla is an American multinational clean energy (carbon free) and automotive company. It designs and produces solar panels and roof tile, battery energy storage and the famous Tesla vehicles (EVs).

Even though Tesla specializes in the manufacture of various clean energy products, the best selling and prominent of its products are the electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are vehicles powered by highly efficient and strong batteries in substitution of fuel. The batteries that power these vehicles are called traction batteries or EV batteries. Moreover, there are various types of EV batteries – Lead-Acid battery, Nickel-Metal-Hydride battery and so – Lithium-Ion battery however, is the most preferred of all.

The sole reason for the indisputable preference of lithium to other elements in making EV batteries is because of its amazing properties. Batteries containing lithium; are highly reactive, are usually light weighted which makes the car even less heavy and assures smooth driving, possess high energy efficiency, capacity and storage, are less prone to overheating at high temperatures which in turn preserves it lifespan and prevents damage, can be recharged and the rate of discharge is lower compared to other batteries which enables it to make longer journeys.

As a matter of fact, Nigeria’s – a West African Nation – lithium source has got the attention of Tesla, Inc due to the fact that the organization’s demand of lithium is high for the production of electric vehicles batteries. Tesla made its interest in the country’s lithium known to Nigeria at a summit which took place at Dubai in 2022, about 4 years after its discovery in large quantities in the West African country states. The company approached the Nigerian minister of mines and steel development with a request of investing in the nation’s mining sector and exporting its lithium for production of EV batteries. The Minister of the West African country however turned down Tesla’s proposal stating that if the organization was interested in its lithium, it must have an electric vehicle battery manufacturing company located in Nigeria where lithium will be mined, processed and used for making EV batteries which can be exported out of the country. China on the other hand has beaten Tesla in the race to Nigeria’s lithium and has secured rights to mine lithium in the country in accordance to the West African nation’s new mining policy which states that some value – building industries in the country and creating jobs in order to enhance the nation’s GDP – must be attached to raw materials including lithium before being exported out of the country.

Lithium is a vital component in making EV batteries. Therefore, the demand for lithium in the global market is advancing and study confirms it should triple by 2040 as it already costs $6000-$15000 per ton. This progress apparently insinuates that the world is marching towards the path of a ‘less carbon threatened’ environment. Although the cost of Lithium-Ion electric vehicle batteries is high, several manufacturing companies are working towards its affordability and fortunately, it has been foreseen to be less expensive in the near future.