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GM Invests $650 Million in Lithium Production

By
Laurance Yap
3
min
Mar 2023
Electric cars all have one thing in common: batteries. And electric batteries all need one thing: lithium. With a major investment in the largest lithium operation in the U.S., General Motors is securing its supply chain - and should be able to churn out a million EV batteries per year.
Scientists in lab assembling lithium ion batteries.
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General Motors, Lithium Americas Partner to Create Thacker Pass Mine

General Motors is on an aggressive electric vehicle push. Starting in 2022, it began launching an onslaught of new electric cars on its brand-new Ultium platform, including the GMC Hummer EV Pickup and SUV, GMC Sierra EV, Cadillac Lyriq, Cadillac Celestiq, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, and Chevrolet Equinox EV. For commercial users, there are also the all-new, all-electric BrightDrop Zevo 400 and BrightDrop Zevo 600.

One thing all of these disparate vehicles have in common is batteries – and those batteries have a common need: Lithium. Which is why GM and Lithium Americas Corporation have announced they will jointly invest to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada. Thacker Pass is the largest known source of lithium in the United States and the third-largest in the world.

Under the agreement, GM will make a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas, which is the largest investment ever by an carmaker to produce battery materials. Lithium Americas estimates the lithium extracted and processed from the project can support the production of up to 1 million EVs per year. And because those batteries will be produced in the North American region, with minerals from the U.S., they should be eligible for federal financial incentives.

Scientists assembling lithium ion batteries in lab.

Powering Ultium Batteries

Lithium carbonate mined from Thacker Pass will be used in battery cells for GM’s Ultium vehicles. Lithium is the key material in lithium-ion batteries, as it stands up well to repeated charging and discharging (including fast charging). It also delivers high energy density and offers more usable capacity than other battery types.

With the move, GM says it has secured all of the battery material it needs to build more than a million electric cars annually in North America from 2025 onward. Its future production will increasingly draw material from domestic resources such as the Thacker Pass site. Sourcing important raw materials and components from suppliers in North America helps should help make GM’s supply chain more secure, helping the company manage battery costs.

“The agreement with GM is a major milestone in moving Thacker Pass toward production, while setting a foundation for the separation of our U.S. and Argentine businesses,” said Lithium Americas President and CEO Jonathan Evans. “This relationship underscores our commitment to develop a sustainable domestic lithium supply chain for electric vehicles. We are pleased to have GM as our largest investor, and we look forward to working together to accelerate the energy transition while spurring job creation and economic growth in America.”

model of lithium battery in EV

When Does Production at Thacker Pass Begin? 

Production of lithium carbonate at Thacker Pass is projected to begin in the second half of 2026. GM says it will have exclusive access to the first phase of lithium carbonate production from the site, and it has the right of first offer on the second phase of production. Approximately 1,000 jobs will be created at Thacker Pass during its construction, with an additional 500 jobs created for ongoing operations.

The investment in Thacker Pass deepens GM’s commitment to battery production in the U.S. It has already announced four U.S. battery plants, with annual capacity of 160 gigawatt hours. The Ultium Cells joint-venture plant with LG Energy Solution in Warren, Ohio, is already in production. Additional joint venture sites are opening in Spring Hill, Tennessee in 2023 and Lansing, Michigan in 2024. These three Ultium Cells plants are expected to create 6,000 jobs in construction and 5,000 in operations.

GM is already building electric vehicles in two Michigan plants, one Tennessee plant and one Ontario (Canada) plant.

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