Friday, September 30, 2011
SAN DIEGO Simbol Materials recently started commercial production of high purity lithium carbonate, used in lithium ion batteries, at a plant in the Imperial Valley town of Brawley.
There are only two other facilities like it in the world, both of them in Asia.
The initial plant will be able to produce 500 tons of high purity lithium carbonate per year. According to a calculation by Shirley Meng, a faculty member of U.C. San Diego’s Jacob School of Engineering, that's enough to power about 20,000 to 30,000 electric cars.
At first, the company will buy technical grade lithium carbonate on the market and purify it at its Brawley plant. But it soon hopes to harvest its own lithium from geothermal brines found near the Salton Sea.
If the electric vehicle market takes off, the Imperial Valley — home to the nation's highest unemployment rate — could reap the benefits.
Meng said that from a technical standpoint, electric cars are well on their way to becoming commonplace.
“I’m very confident that electric vehicles will be part of our future,” she said.