To promote environmentally-friendly, resource-efficient extraction of lithium, the BMW Group is investing, through its venture capital fund, BMW i Ventures, in an innovative process developed by US startup Lilac Solutions. Lilac Solutions has developed and patented an ion exchange technology that will “significantly” improve efficiency, costs and sustainability by extracting lithium from brine resources, which are natural deposits of saltwater.
The BMW Group cites the expansion of electromobility and release of about ten million fully electric vehicles onto the roads over the next ten years or so as the reason behind the investment. By 2030, at least half the BMW Group’s global sales are expected to come from fully electric vehicles. This will also increase the need for lithium, an important raw material for the production of battery cells.
Wolfgang Obermaier, Senior Vice President Indirect Goods and Services, Raw Materials, Production Partners at the BMW Group said: “Innovative technologies provide better, more sustainable and more efficient access to raw materials. By investing in startups, we are speeding up the development of new technologies, stimulating competition and providing impetus that will make it easier for young companies to access the market. By investing in Lilac Solutions, we are supporting technological progress in the field of lithium extraction, with a focus on responsible and sustainable methods”.
Lilac Solutions has developed a new ion exchange technology to make mining lithium from brine resources more efficient and cost-effective. The company seeks to reduce environmental impact compared to conventional methods, whilst protecting local communities and ecosystems.
The technology has been proven in initial field pilots and must now demonstrate that it can be scaled and industrialised in the mid-term. The process could then be used with brines worldwide, even if they have a low lithium content.
The BMW Group states that it has made sustainability and resource efficiency “central to the company’s strategic direction”, a key aspect of which is “compliance with environmental and social standards” in the supply chain. Eliminating infringements of human rights and environmental standards presents a particular challenge in the case of critical raw materials – as is the case with lithium.
For this raw material, BMW Group Purchasing says it has implemented additional measures and is sourcing lithium directly from the mines and making it available to battery cell suppliers. In this way, the company aims to create “complete transparency about the origin and mining methods of the material”.
You can find more information about BMW and its investment in Lilac Solutions on its website.
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