Visualizing 25 Years of Lithium Production, by Country
Lithium Production by Country (1995-2021)
Lithium is often dubbed as “white gold” for electric vehicles.
The lightweight metal plays a key role in the cathodes of all types of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs. Accordingly, the recent rise in EV adoption has sent lithium production to new highs.
The above infographic charts more than 25 years of lithium production by country from 1995 to 2021, based on data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
The Largest Lithium Producers Over Time
In the 1990s, the U.S. was the largest producer of lithium, in stark contrast to the present.
In fact, the U.S. accounted for over one-third of global lithium production in 1995. From then onwards until 2010, Chile took over as the biggest producer with a production boom in the Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s richest lithium brine deposits.
Global lithium production surpassed 100,000 tonnes for the first time in 2021, quadrupling from 2010. What’s more, roughly 90% of it came from just three countries.
|Rank||Country||2021 Production (tonnes)||% of Total|
|#8||United States 🇺🇸||900||1%|
|Rest of World 🌍||102||0.1%|
Australia alone produces 52% of the world’s lithium. Unlike Chile, where lithium is extracted from brines, Australian lithium comes from hard-rock mines for the mineral spodumene.
China, the third-largest producer, has a strong foothold in the lithium supply chain. Alongside developing domestic mines, Chinese companies have acquired around $5.6 billion worth of lithium assets in countries like Chile, Canada, and Australia over the last decade. It also hosts 60% of the world’s lithium refining capacity for batteries.
Batteries have been one of the primary drivers of the exponential increase in lithium production. But how much lithium do batteries use, and how much goes into other uses?
What is Lithium Used For?
While lithium is best known for its role in rechargeable batteries—and rightly so—it has many other important uses.
Before EVs and lithium-ion batteries transformed the demand for lithium, the metal’s end-uses looked completely different as compared to today.
|End-use||Lithium Consumption 2010 (%)||Lithium Consumption 2021 (%)|
|Ceramics and glass||31%||14%|
In 2010, ceramics and glass accounted for the largest share of lithium consumption at 31%. In ceramics and glassware, lithium carbonate increases strength and reduces thermal expansion, which is often essential for modern glass-ceramic cooktops.
Lithium is also used to make lubricant greases for the transport, steel, and aviation industries, along with other lesser-known uses.
The Future of Lithium Production
As the world produces more batteries and EVs, the demand for lithium is projected to reach 1.5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2025 and over 3 million tonnes by 2030.
For context, the world produced 540,000 tonnes of LCE in 2021. Based on the above demand projections, production needs to triple by 2025 and increase nearly six-fold by 2030.
Although supply has been on an exponential growth trajectory, it can take anywhere from six to more than 15 years for new lithium projects to come online. As a result, the lithium market is projected to be in a deficit for the next few years.
Where are Clean Energy Technologies Manufactured?
As the market for low-emission solutions expands, China dominates the production of clean energy technologies and their components.
Visualizing Where Clean Energy Technologies Are Manufactured
When looking at where clean energy technologies and their components are made, one thing is very clear: China dominates the industry.
The country, along with the rest of the Asia Pacific region, accounts for approximately 75% of global manufacturing capacity across seven clean energy technologies.
Based on the IEA’s 2023 Energy Technology Perspectives report, the visualization above breaks down global manufacturing capacity by region for mass-manufactured clean energy technologies, including onshore and offshore wind, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, electric vehicles (EVs), fuel cell trucks, heat pumps, and electrolyzers.
The State of Global Manufacturing Capacity
Manufacturing capacity refers to the maximum amount of goods or products a facility can produce within a specific period. It is determined by several factors, including:
- The size of the manufacturing facility
- The number of machines or production lines available
- The skill level of the workforce
- The availability of raw materials
According to the IEA, the global manufacturing capacity for clean energy technologies may periodically exceed short-term production needs. Currently this is true especially for EV batteries, fuel cell trucks, and electrolyzers. For example, while only 900 fuel cell trucks were sold globally in 2021, the aggregate self-reported capacity by manufacturers was 14,000 trucks.
With that said, there still needs to be a significant increase in manufacturing capacity in the coming decades if demand aligns with the IEA’s 2050 net-zero emissions scenario. Such developments require investments in new equipment and technology, developing the clean energy workforce, access to raw and refined materials, and optimizing production processes to improve efficiency.
What Gives China the Advantage?
Of the above clean energy technologies and their components, China averages 65% of global manufacturing capacity. For certain components, like solar PV wafers, this percentage is as high as 96%.
Here’s a breakdown of China’s manufacturing capacity per clean energy technology.
|Technology||China’s share of global manufacturing capacity, 2021|
|Solar PV Systems||85%|
|Fuel Cell Trucks||47%|
So, what gives China this advantage in the clean energy technology sector? According to the IEA report, the answer lies in a combination of factors:
- Low manufacturing costs
- A dominance in clean energy metal processing, namely cobalt, lithium, and rare earth metals
- Sustained policy support and investment
The mixture of these factors has allowed China to capture a significant share of the global market for clean technologies while driving down the cost of clean energy worldwide.
As the market for low-emission solutions expands, China’s dominance in the sector will likely continue in the coming years and have notable implications for the global energy and emission landscape.
Visualizing China’s Dominance in Battery Manufacturing (2022-2027P)
This infographic breaks down battery manufacturing capacity by country in 2022 and 2027.
Visualizing China’s Dominance in Battery Manufacturing
With the world gearing up for the electric vehicle era, battery manufacturing has become a priority for many nations, including the United States.
However, having entered the race for batteries early, China is far and away in the lead.
Using the data and projections behind BloombergNEF’s lithium-ion supply chain rankings, this infographic visualizes battery manufacturing capacity by country in 2022 and 2027p, highlighting the extent of China’s battery dominance.
Battery Manufacturing Capacity by Country in 2022
In 2022, China had more battery production capacity than the rest of the world combined.
|Rank||Country||2022 Battery Cell|
Manufacturing Capacity, GWh
|% of Total|
|#7||🇰🇷 South Korea||15||1%|
With nearly 900 gigawatt-hours of manufacturing capacity or 77% of the global total, China is home to six of the world’s 10 biggest battery makers. Behind China’s battery dominance is its vertical integration across the rest of the EV supply chain, from mining the metals to producing the EVs. It’s also the largest EV market, accounting for 52% of global sales in 2021.
Poland ranks second with less than one-tenth of China’s capacity. In addition, it hosts LG Energy Solution’s Wroclaw gigafactory, the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Overall, European countries (including non-EU members) made up just 14% of global battery manufacturing capacity in 2022.
Although it lives in China’s shadow when it comes to batteries, the U.S. is also among the world’s lithium-ion powerhouses. As of 2022, it had eight major operational battery factories, concentrated in the Midwest and the South.
China’s Near-Monopoly Continues Through 2027
Global lithium-ion manufacturing capacity is projected to increase eightfold in the next five years. Here are the top 10 countries by projected battery production capacity in 2027:
|Rank||Country||2027P Battery Cell|
Manufacturing Capacity, GWh
|% of Total|
China’s well-established advantage is set to continue through 2027, with 69% of the world’s battery manufacturing capacity.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is projected to increase its capacity by more than 10-fold in the next five years. EV tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act are likely to incentivize battery manufacturing by rewarding EVs made with domestic materials. Alongside Ford and General Motors, Asian companies including Toyota, SK Innovation, and LG Energy Solution have all announced investments in U.S. battery manufacturing in recent months.
Europe will host six of the projected top 10 countries for battery production in 2027. Europe’s current and future battery plants come from a mix of domestic and foreign firms, including Germany’s Volkswagen, China’s CATL, and South Korea’s SK Innovation.
Can Countries Cut Ties With China?
Regardless of the growth in North America and Europe, China’s dominance is unmatched.
Battery manufacturing is just one piece of the puzzle, albeit a major one. Most of the parts and metals that make up a battery—like battery-grade lithium, electrolytes, separators, cathodes, and anodes—are primarily made in China.
Therefore, combating China’s dominance will be expensive. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. and Europe will have to invest $87 billion and $102 billion, respectively, to meet domestic battery demand with fully local supply chains by 2030.
Electrification2 years ago
Ranked: The Top 10 EV Battery Manufacturers
Real Assets2 years ago
Visualizing China’s Dominance in Rare Earth Metals
Real Assets1 year ago
The World’s Top 10 Gold Mining Companies
Misc2 years ago
All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization
Misc1 year ago
All the Metals We Mined in One Visualization
Real Assets2 years ago
What is a Commodity Super Cycle?
Real Assets2 years ago
How the World’s Top Gold Mining Stocks Performed in 2020
Electrification11 months ago
The Key Minerals in an EV Battery