Department of Energy

A Material Change: Bringing Lithium Production Back to America

June 29, 2012

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The Rockwood Lithium manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. | Photo courtesy of Rockwood Lithium.

The Rockwood Lithium manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. | Photo courtesy of Rockwood Lithium.

Between 1980 and 2009, the global demand for lithium has tripled. This metal is a key material in a number of growing industries -- including advanced vehicle batteries and consumer electronics. But more specifically, lithium-ion batteries are a vital component in electric vehicles and other rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics, and are used to produce the plug-in electric vehicles on the market today. These batteries also have a major impact on energy storage infrastructure, and are helping integrate renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.

After leading the world in lithium production in the early 1990s, America now imports the majority of its lithium materials and compounds from South America.

The Energy Department is hoping to change that, and with a $28.4 million federal investment the communities of Silver Peak, Nevada and Kings Mountain, North Carolina hope to bring leadership back to the U.S.

Today, Secretary Chu recognized Rockwood Lithium’s expanded manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Together, Rockwood’s projects in Kings Mountain and Silver Peak will create 100 new jobs and dramatically increase the United States’ lithium production capacity. In addition to the federal investment, the project has leveraged more than $46 million in additional private sector funding, building on the Obama Administration’s efforts to grow American manufacturing in clean energy technologies and create jobs in globally competitive markets.

The manufacturing expansion announced today also supports the Energy Department’s EV-Everywhere Challenge, a broader initiative to make electric vehicles more affordable and convenient to own and drive than today’s gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 10 years.

For more information about our investments in electric vehicle and battery technologies, visit the Vehicle Technologies Program website. And for an outlook on critical materials around the world, check out the Department's Critical Materials Strategy.