The United States government has allocated a significant sum of $623 million to support the growth of electric vehicles (EVs) in an effort to reshape the transportation landscape. Meanwhile, Ireland is making its mark in the lithium industry, aiming to strengthen Europe’s battery supply chain. These developments have the potential to greatly impact the future of sustainable mobility.
The grants provided by the Biden administration, made available through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are specifically designed to encourage the widespread adoption of EVs. Currently, there are over 4 million electric vehicles on American roads, according to data from the U.S. Transportation Department. However, progress in establishing a comprehensive EV charging network has been slow, with only New York and Ohio currently having operational charging stations. Pennsylvania and Maine are expected to open their own EV charging stations early this year.
Last year, approximately 11 million EV units were sold globally, and this year, the EV market is projected to reach a staggering $623 billion in sales worldwide, encompassing both battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The market volume is expected to reach $906 billion by 2028, with 17 million vehicle units. The aim of the grant is to make EV chargers more accessible, reliable, and convenient for American drivers, while also creating job opportunities in charger manufacturing, installation, and maintenance.
Of the total grant amount, $311 million from the Federal Highway Administration will support 36 community projects, including the development of EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. The remaining $312 million will be allocated to 11 recipients for projects along designated alternative fuel corridors. In total, the grants will fund 47 EV charging and alternative-fueling infrastructure projects across 22 states and Puerto Rico, leading to the construction of approximately 7,500 EV charging ports. Some of the recipients include the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the Maryland Clean Energy Center. These funds are part of the $2.5 billion Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program under the infrastructure law, which aims to install 500,000 EV charging stations in the U.S. by 2030.
Since January 2021, EV sales have quadrupled, and publicly available charging ports have increased by 70%, according to the Transportation Department. However, this progress is only a third of the way towards the current administration’s goal, with six years remaining.
The increased demand for lithium, driven by the bullish projections for the EV market, has prompted Europe to ramp up its lithium exploration efforts. By 2040, the projected lithium requirement for EVs is nearly 25 million metric tonnes. Ireland, with its promising lithium discoveries, is now playing a significant role in Europe’s lithium supply chain.
Traces of lithium were identified in local granites during base metals exploration conducted by Irish Base Metals Ltd. back in 1972. However, the potential significance of lithium was overlooked at the time, as it was not considered a commercially viable mineral. The European Union, heavily dependent on Australia for 87% of its raw lithium imports, is now focused on expanding lithium exploration. The EU-backed GreenPeg project has identified southeast Ireland as one of three locations to study pegmatite ore deposits, which are known as hard-rock lithium deposits containing extractable amounts of lithium and other elements.
While Ireland has historically been a significant supplier of alumina and zinc, recent mineral exploration has primarily focused on resources such as copper, lead, zinc, and gold. S&P Global Market Intelligence data shows that there are only two established lithium projects in the country, namely Avalonia in Carlow and Leinster in Wicklow. However, there is potential for more discoveries in the Irish lithium belt. Arkle Resources, in a new lithium exploration effort, discovered pegmatites in its Mine River gold project in November 2022. This area is located west of the Avalonia project, a joint venture established in 2014 by Canada’s International Lithium Corp. and China’s Ganfeng Lithium Group.
Despite the potential in Ireland’s lithium sector, there are challenges to overcome, including a shortage of skilled professionals experienced in recognizing hard rock lithium. However, companies like Li-FT Power (LIFT; LIFFF) are well-positioned to take advantage of the looming shortage of lithium. Li-FT Power is the fastest developing North American lithium junior, with five different projects across Canada.
The convergence of substantial investments in EV infrastructure in the United States and Ireland’s lithium exploration signifies a transformative era. The electrification of transport and the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions will shape the global landscape in unprecedented ways. The future is charged with potential, both electric and lithium-powered.