General Motors will lead a $50 million funding round for lithium extraction startup EnergyX

UAW Native 5960 member Kimberly Fuhr inspects a Chevrolet Bolt EV throughout automobile manufacturing on Could 6, 2021, on the Common Motors Orion Meeting Plant in Orion Township, Michigan.

Steve Fecht for Chevrolet

General Motors mentioned Tuesday its enterprise capital arm will lead a $50 million financing spherical for EnergyX, a Texas-based startup growing a extra environment friendly methodology to extract and course of lithium from salt flats.

Lithium is a important element in batteries for electrical automobiles. Underneath the deal, GM may even assist develop EnergyX’s expertise and could have first proper of refusal to purchase lithium from any tasks developed by the startup.

EnergyX demonstrated its expertise with a pilot plant in South America’s “Lithium Triangle,” an space of salt flats overlaying elements of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile that incorporates over half of the world’s identified lithium reserves.

Brine swimming pools on the Albemarle Company lithium mine in Calama, Antofagasta area, Chile, on July 20, 2021.

Cristobal Olivares | Bloomberg | Getty Photographs

At present, miners within the space extract lithium by pumping water underground to flush out the mineral, then permitting the ensuing brine to evaporate in a collection of ponds. The method is comparatively low-cost, but it surely solely recovers 30% to 40% of the overall lithium — whereas utilizing enormous quantities of water and land.

EnergyX’s pilot plant, which opened final 12 months, has demonstrated that its expertise can get well 90% or extra of the lithium in brine whereas utilizing a lot much less power, water and land than present processes.

EnergyX plans to make use of the brand new funding to construct 5 bigger demonstration vegetation in North America and South America.

For GM, a key precedence is to unlock a North American provide of lithium, which is not cost-competitive with world provides utilizing present extraction strategies. The auto large believes that EnergyX’s expertise might cut back prices sufficient to make North American lithium mining viable, whereas minimizing the environmental affect of extracting the mineral.

GM will report its first-quarter outcomes earlier than U.S. markets open April 25.

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