Spain begins constructing its first lithium battery cell factory, and lithium extraction will commence in 2022. This step will minimize reliance on the Asian market and gradually lower the cost of automobiles equipped with lithium batteries.
The electric car presents not only the issue of autonomy and the obstacle of high-speed charging infrastructure but also the high cost of BEV automobiles. This is due to the high cost of lithium-ion batteries and significant investment in new technologies, beginning with the modular platforms on which these new cars are built.
Regarding lithium-ion batteries, which are used by electric cars and most hybrids and plug-in hybrids, even though Spain is a prominent participant in Europe's automotive sector, European manufacturers have an alarming reliance on Asia. This is where most of the lithium extraction industry and the majority of the market for the fabrication of cells for electric vehicle batteries are concentrated, even though some of the batteries are assembled locally.
In Spain, there are automobile plants for Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ford, the Volkswagen Group, and the PSA Group. Spain is a significant vehicle exporter to the whole European market, and our country is producing an increasing number of electric vehicles. However, our industry remains too reliant on Asia to supply battery cells utilized in these new electric cars.
Consider lithium extraction, and its usage in the construction of cells is already costly. In that case, the final price of batteries, and the ultimate price of this sort of automobile, are influenced by the additional transportation expenses. And now that we are in the midst of the so-called semiconductor crisis, it is more evident than ever that the principle of globalization is sound. Still, mismatches exist, and lowering reliance would be beneficial.
The situation as a whole demonstrates why Spain should produce batteries for electric vehicles. Not just for the sake of the whole European car market but also as an essential vehicle production hub for the entire Old Continent. Also, this might minimize reliance, lower costs, and assist the introduction of electric vehicles in Europe.
Many suggestions for lithium extraction in Spain have been made in recent years, but these projects have not materialized for various reasons. However, in 2018, the business Lithium Iberia began investigating the feasibility of harvesting lithium in Extremadura. According to their investigations, there is a vein of interest there, and they have been submitting papers to obtain an exploitation concession since then.
Lithium Iberia hopes to have this exploitation concession accessible during 2022, allowing operations to commence in Spain in 2023. This means that Spain will be operating a lithium mine to supply its battery plant for electric vehicles in less than two years.
Meanwhile, the Phi4Tech firm has planned a lithium battery cell plant in the Badajoz logistics platform, for which it intends to get the necessary license in the first quarter of 2022. If the project moves through as planned, construction will begin in June 2022, with the first cells leaving in 2023.
With these two projects, Spain would have a lithium extraction hub and a lithium battery cell manufacturing facility. Automobile makers have already constructed battery assembly facilities for electric vehicles at the many car production plants we described before and dispersed throughout the Spanish geography. As a result, this is the missing link in strengthening Spain's automotive sector at the European level.