General Motors announced that GM Ventures is leading a $50 million Series B financing round in EnergyX – a company specializing in direct lithium extraction and refinery technologies. As part of the investment, GM will help fund the commercialization of EnergyX’s sustainable extraction technology in exchange for lithium to be exclusively used for EV production.
Energy Exploration Technologies Inc., better known as EnergyX, is an American company founded in 2018 with the goal of delivering more sustainable and effective battery and energy storage solutions to our world.
The company has filed over 60 patents covering its array of technological breakthroughs, including its Lithium Ion Transport and Separation (LiTAS) portfolio, consisting of unique direct lithium extraction (DLE) methods. These sustainable processes utilize proprietary membranes, solvents, and adsorbents to optimize lithium recovery for Li-brine resource producers, intended to create a process that smoothly operates from “brine to battery.”
As one of the largest automakers in the US, GM is slowly but surely going all-electric. While it has yet to deliver many of the new BEV models it is advertising, those models are on the way, and there are even more in its production pipeline. This pivot toward an all-EV future will require the ongoing revamping of assembly lines and massive amounts of precious resources like lithium which are vital to current EV battery chemistry.
Under the new terms for EVs to qualify for the federal tax credits outlined in President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, now hardened by the US Department of Treasury’s new battery guidance, it’s more important than ever to reliably source battery components from North America.
GM appears to have found a partner in EnergyX, gaining exclusive access to local lithium supplies, but it also looks to fund the company’s development of more efficient and sustainable methods of extracting the precious element.
According to General Motors, its GM Ventures division, which invests in tech startups, is leading a $50 million funding round in EnergyX alongside other unnamed investors. The Series B funding round is focused on furthering EnergyX’s research and development relating to its DLE technology with the goal of unlocking the coveted supply of lithium in North America.
As you can see from the chart above, EnergyX’s extraction process can create lithium metal directly from brine that is potentially anode-ready to be implemented in EV batteries. The process is not only more sustainable but also more cost-effective. Add a localized supply chain, and it’s no wonder GM is investing in the prospect of gaining access to the lithium EnergyX may produce. EnergyX CEO Teague Egan spoke about his company’s technology:
The EnergyX team of scientists and engineers have worked relentlessly for five years developing cutting-edge DLE technology to solve the immense bottlenecks that have limited global lithium production and supply chain. This single bottleneck (a massive lithium shortage) is the biggest challenge to scaling EV production. We will unlock lithium supply in the U.S., a pivotal move in expanding the EV industry. There are many ways of gauging success, but few are more rewarding than the support of leaders like GM. We’re energized by GM’s investment and will keep a ‘Day 1’ attitude as we pursue our goal of making EnergyX the biggest lithium company in the world.
GM’s investment money comes with a conditional agreement with EnergyX that includes three key components pertaining to the potential lithium supply on the continent:
- The two American companies will implement a technology development program to support the commercialization of EnergyX’s advanced DLE and refinery processes, potentially replacing traditional evaporation pond methods.
- GM gets access to competitive lithium offtakes for its own exclusive use in EV production, including material sourced from North and South American mining companies contracted by EnergyX.
- GM will provide additional financing for lithium production projects in North and South America, using EnergyX’s technology to drive potential supply chain opportunities for the automaker.
Last year, EnergyX became the first company to design and commission a successful, five-month, in-field pilot plant program in the “Lithium Triangle,” located along the Atacama Desert in South America. The company’s LiTAS technology can increase lithium recovery rates to over 90%, significantly higher than the current industry standard of 30-40% using ponds, and even got as high as 94% during the pilot trials.
With fresh funding led by GM, EnergyX now looks to scale those existing lithium extraction systems into new pilot plants across North and South America on its way to full-scale commercialization. GM’s vice president of global purchasing and supply chain Jeff Morrison also spoke about the new collaboration with EnergyX to obtain more lithium:
We are committed to securing EV critical minerals that are sustainable and cost competitive to maintain our leadership position among automakers. The investment in EnergyX is a further proof point of GM’s leadership position. EnergyX is developing a novel direct lithium extraction process that’s not only cost competitive but also will reduce energy, land and water usage as compared to the current extraction and processing process for brine-based lithium. We are excited to be partnered with EnergyX on their efforts.
EnergyX is currently in the process of erecting a new 40,000-square-foot facility in Austin, Texas, to headquarter its growing operation. Learn more about EnergyX and its proprietary approach to Lithium extraction in the video below:
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