Renault receives lithium from the Upper Rhine Trench from Vulcan Energie

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Climate-neutral battery raw material is obtained by geothermal energy and electrolysis

Renault receives lithium from the Upper Rhine Trench from Vulcan Energie-renault

Along with cobalt and nickel, lithium is one of the key raw materials for batteries. So far, the alkali metal has been mined almost exclusively outside of Europe – including the salt lakes of South America, China and Australia. But the material is also available in Germany, including in the Upper Rhine Graben. Renault has now secured access to it, as reported by Reuters.

To this end, the Renault Group has signed a five-year partnership agreement with Vulcan Energie Ressourcen GmbH. The German-Australian joint venture company from Karlsruhe wants to mine the raw material in Germany, and in fact CO2-free.

"Our mission is to drastically reduce the currently high carbon footprint of the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. To achieve this goal, we have developed a patented process that enables us to produce the world’s first carbon-free lithium from the Thermal waters of the Upper Rhine Graben in Germany made possible with our Vulcan project. " (Vulcan Energie Ressource GmbH)

The one with Renault The agreed delivery volume amounts to 6,000 to 17,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalents in battery quality annually. The agreement has a term of five years and can be extended with mutual consent. Delivery will begin in 2026. The environmentally friendly funding process is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 300 to 700 kilograms when manufacturing a 50 kWh battery. That suits the Renault Group, because by 2030 90 percent of their sales are to be made up of all-electric cars.

Renault receives lithium from the Upper Rhine Trench from Vulcan Energie-upper

Renault electric cars like the electric R5 planned for 2023 could run on climate-neutral lithium

Vulcan Energie plans to start lithium production in 2024. To this end, the company wants to invest 1.8 billion euros in the construction of geothermal systems with connected lithium extraction. A first plant for 0.7 billion is expected to produce 15,000 tons of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) and 22 megawatts of electricity. In a second phase, another plant is to supply an additional 25,000 tons of LiOH and 51 MW of electricity.

During the process, brine at a temperature of 165 degrees is pumped to the surface. The heat is used to produce electricity and to extract the lithium. The cooled brine is pumped back into the depths. Fossil fuels are not required and water consumption should also be low. In addition, you earn from electricity production and of course from the lithium. The lithium chloride resulting from the direct extraction is purified and converted to lithium hydroxide monohydrate (LHM) by electrolysis. LHM is sold, as is the hydrochloric acid produced as a by-product.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the Vulcan Energie method should also be very economical. The company states costs of 4,690 euros per ton, which is cheaper than the evaporation process (4,857 euros) and even more than the open-cast mining process (5,670 euros).

Two methods are used for conventional lithium extraction. When extracting hard rock in open-cast mining, the rock has to be digested after mining using fossil fuels and acids, which is not very environmentally friendly because of the CO2 emissions. In the second method, the water in the brine is evaporated by allowing the brine to evaporate in large basins. This removes large amounts of water from the environment.

In addition to the new contract with Renault, Vulcan Energie recently also signed a similar agreement with the Korean battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution and also signed letters of intent to supply Stellantis and Daimler.

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