It’s no secret that electric vehicles require a lot of power to operate. Manufacturers have tried their hardest to create accessible EVs that would be more pragmatic for the average consumer. The construction of EVs is a setback for many companies, especially since they contain highly-coveted lithium, but a California desert could be the key to this situation.
Environmental scientists and automobile companies are looking at the Salton Sea Basin for its extensive lithium deposits. The Salton Sea basin is an incredibly dry piece of land formed by the collision of two tectonic plates: the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. The bumping of these two massive plates created a gigantic low point on the Earth’s surface. The extensive California desert is grueling and blistering, but at its center lies a unique lake that outputs large amounts of lithium.
Automobile companies have gone to this California desert for all their lithium needs. Lithium is especially integral for electric vehicles since its the lightest metal that naturally occurs on Earth. Manufacturers need lithium for EVs’ electric-charge battery, making it weightless and energy-efficient. As electric-powered cars become increasingly more popular, the automobile industry is scrambling to find the ideal lithium deposit.
This California desert is an incredible resource not just for its ample amount of lithium but its simplicity in retrieving it. Companies can extract the metal from the ground with minimal alterations to the Earth at the Salton Sea. Most companies have to extract lithium through hard rock mining, which damages the dirt and leaves massive scars on the surface. Since lithium naturally forms in a liquid form in the Salton Sea, it’s easily extractible with minor damage to the environment.
This discovery comes at a fortunate time for the United States, primarily relies on foreign deposits to satisfy its lithium needs. Scientists are alluding to the Salton Sea having so much lithium that it could power every electric vehicle nationwide for many years to come. The US mainly depends on faraway nations for fuel, including oil superpower Russia. With more local opportunities for energy and mineral extraction, the United States might be in the clear from its costly reliance on foreign resources. The lithium discovery in this California desert is a lucky happening for the Biden administration, which has wanted to move away from importing fuel and metals since its inauguration.
One of the difficulties of extracting metal from this California desert’s lake is its extreme temperature. The water is so hot that the temperature often exceeds 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Geothermal energy companies use massive tools to pump the brine out of the depths and onto the surface. Then the brine is filtered through a process called lithium selective adsorption. The brine is administered into tanks with ceramic beads designed to remove the precious metal from the liquid.
The Salton Sea that resides inside this scorched California desert could be the answer to electric vehicle production in America. The sheer amount of lithium that engineers are finding has the opportunity to make electric cars more accessible to the general consumer.