BMW’s venture capital firm, i Ventures, announced an investment aimed at improving the sustainability of lithium for battery technology. The investment in Mangrove Lithium supports the goal of a sustainable and less resource-intensive method of producing battery-grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate. Lithium is a key ingredient for current rechargeable battery technology and vital to the development of electric vehicles.
Mangrove Lithium, a Vancouver based company, developed a process that eliminates the need for a carbonate plant to convert raw materials into lithium carbonate. Traditional industrial methods of producing the lithium carbonate often involve long periods of evaporation or use of high temperatures and chemicals on raw materials at a specialized plant. Mangrove Lithium has developed an electrochemical process that eliminates a full step in production, reducing costs and time needed to make the pre-cursor to the compounds used in lithium-ion batteries. According to the company, the process is the lowest-energy, lowest-cost, and “greenest” available today. The press announcement states, “Sites with renewable energy sources could nearly eliminate their carbon footprint, as well as most of the harmful reagents used in today’s lithium refining.”
The new process is reportedly scalable to any capacity at can be used at different points in a extraction or recycling. “Our vision is to make green lithium refining a reality. Our modular approach enables us to adapt production capacity in a flexible way. By eliminating an entire conversion step in the process, we save cost and energy, making projects feasible that otherwise would not be financially viable,” says Saad Dara, CEO of Mangrove Lithium.
BMW i Ventures has invested in companies and technologies focused on lithium and batteries before. In 2021, BMW announced investments in US startup Lilac Solutions, which developed processes to better extract lithium from brine resources, and Our Next Energy, Inc., a Michigan-based company working to develop longer-range, lower cost batteries.