General Motors invests in Controlled Thermal Resources for 'low-carbon geothermal lithium' for batteries

by John Shepherd
Lithium is a key ingredient in GM's Ultium battery packs, like this one being tested by GM validation engineer Andre Brown at the GM Global Battery Systems Lab on the campus of the GM Tech Center in Michigan. Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors
General Motors has announced a major investment in Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), which is developing a project in California to produce lithium from geothermal brine.

GM said it will be the first company to make "a multi-million-dollar investment” in CTR's Hell's Kitchen project in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field (SSGF) – which could yield a "significant amount of GM's future battery-grade lithium hydroxide and carbonate” for the car giant’s electric vehicles expansion programme.

According to the partners, lithium produced at Hell’s Kitchen, in Imperial Valley, will be through a "closed-loop, direct extraction process that results in a smaller physical footprint, no production tailing and lower carbon dioxide emissions", when compared to traditional processes such as pit mining or evaporation ponds.

First rights

The first stage of the project is expected to begin yielding lithium in 2024, which GM said will support its aim of eliminating tailpipe emissions from light-duty vehicles by 2035.

GM will have first rights on lithium produced by the first stage of the project, including an option for "a multi-year relationship”.

GM’s executive VP for global product development, purchasing and supply chain, Doug Parks, said: "Lithium is critical to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of EVs increases, and we accelerate towards our all-electric future.”

CTR said the SSGF resource has a total inferred lithium carbonate equivalent of ~15 million tonnes.

Earlier this year, GM and its Ultium Cells joint venture partner, LG Energy Solution, confirmed a $2.3bn (£1.7bn) investment plan to build an EV battery manufacturing facility in Tennessee.

Related articles in our archive:

GM and LG Energy Solution to work with Li-Cycle on battery cell material scrap recycling