In order not to fall further behind Tesla and Chinese electric vehicle car companies, many U.S. and European auto giants are looking to bypass traditional suppliers and are committing billions of dollars for direct deals with upstart lithium mining firms in Chile, Argentina, Quebec and Nevada.
Among the companies investing in lithium are Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen.
A secure supply of the precious metal could to be a make-or-break element for these companies as they move their production from gasoline to battery power. Without a reliable source of lithium, U.S. and European carmakers will not be able to build batteries for the electric pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and sedans they need to remain competitive.
Currently, surging demand means that most major mining companies don’t have enough lithium to supply the industry as electric vehicle sales rise.