Extracting Lithium Carbonate From BrineEnlarge Photo
There may not be a magic bullet for battery technology, but improvements can come from the most unlikely places. One of those is the San Andreas fault in California, where one of battery tech's futures is bubbling out of the ground.
As a tectonic fault line, the area is a great source of geothermal energy, where hot brine bubbling out of the ground is used to drive turbines, generating electricity.
The brine has another use, however. As it bubbles through the earth's crust, it collects minerals.
One of these, the BBC reports, is lithium--a key component in modern electric car batteries, and many other electrical devices.
Simbol Materials is extracting this lithium from the brine, not only accessing large reserves of this important metal, but doing away with the need to dig large, ecologically-dubious mines to extract the ore.
Battery startup Envia Systems has been using this lithium to great effect, and now believes it can make a battery of higher energy density and lower cost than has previously been possible.
Reduce the cost of the batteries and the cost of electric cars comes down--and with greater range, the appeal will also broaden.
A muddy, uninviting stretch of the San Andreas fault line may seem like an unlikely place to plan the future of EVs, but in providing both the minerals and the energy, it's also one of the greenest yet.