Half of the world's lithium, the lightest of any solid element and an important component in electric car batteries, is hanging out in Bolivia. There's enough of the element to make car batteries for 4.8 billion (with a B) electric cars, and now the country has built its first lithium processing plant.
In a move Bolivian president Evo Morales called "historic," the country plans to process its lithium by making it into various kinds of batteries with the $19 million plant. Comibol, the state-run mining company, claims the plant can begin producing 5,000 tons of lithium carbonate every year, possibly reaching 30,000 tons per year by 2016. That would put the country on par with Chile, the world's leading producer of lithium.
At the moment, estimations put Bolivia's lithium reserves at 5.4 million tons, almost double Chile's 3.3 million and a far cry from Argentina's 2.7 million. Until now, it's hasn't been being harvested.
The lithium plant could have a great impact on Bolivia but also for the burgeoning reality of electric cars as a common mode of transportation. At the moment, many of these are estimates, but if they're found to be correct, electric cars could become a whole lot more feasible.