BMW invests in more durable lithium mining
BMW i Ventures has invested in Lilac Solutions. This US start-up developed an innovative process for the environmentally friendly and resource-saving mining of lithium. With the investment, the BMW Group wants to promote “technological progress in the field of lithium mining”.
Lilac has developed and patented a technology that uses an ion exchanger to significantly improve lithium mining from the brine of saltwater deposits in terms of efficiency, costs, and sustainability. According to BMW, the technology has already proven itself in initial field projects. It must now prove “that it is scalable and can be industrialized in the medium term”.
The great hope is that the process will be designed to be used worldwide in brines, even if they only have a low lithium content. In previous techniques for extracting lithium from brine, the moisture is gradually removed until the solids remain and further processed.
This evaporation process occurs either in large evaporation basins or in particular plants, which require (a lot of) energy. BMW states that this investment is focused on responsible and sustainable extraction.
“Innovative technologies provide better, more sustainable, and more efficient access to raw materials,” says Wolfgang Obermaier, Head of Indirect Goods and Services, Raw Materials, Production Partners at the BMW Group.
“By investing in start-ups, we are speeding up the development of new technologies, stimulating competition, and providing the impetus that will make it easier for young companies to access the market.”
The BMW Group, which stands for vehicles of the BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce subsidiaries, aims to achieve at least half of its global sales with fully electric cars by 2030. “Accordingly, the demand for lithium, an important raw material for the production of battery cells, is increasing,” the company declares.
For critical raw materials, such as lithium, BMW has developed a particular supply chain. The carmaker buys directly from raw material producers and makes these materials available to its suppliers (in this case, battery cell manufacturers) to produce BMW battery cells.
In this way, the Munich-based company aims to create “complete transparency about the origin and mining methods of the material”. At the moment, BMW does not provide details on the financial scope of the investment in Lilac Solutions. A concrete timetable or the planned development steps are also not mentioned yet.