General Motors (GM) announced today that it would make an equity investment of $650 million with Lithium Americas to extract lithium at the Thackers Pass mine in Nevada.
GM has set a renewed and aggressive EV production goal by introducing its first EV models following the Chevrolet Bolt, Bolt EUV, and GMC Hummer EV. To achieve its ambitious EV production target for this year and beyond, it has not only planned four battery production locations through a partnership with LG, but it has also invested in North America’s largest lithium mining operations.
GM’s revised and far more aggressive EV goal comes from the company’s message to investors this morning. In which the company laid out that it plans to produce 400,000 EVs between now and the first half of 2024, keep pre-tax profit margins between 8 to 10 percent, and cut roughly $2 billion in costs over the next two years. But this comes with a recognition that EV production will only need to grow further and hence require more materials.
A fresh focus on verticle integration is key to achieving each of these goals, particularly concerning lithium batteries that will fuel the American auto giant’s transition to electric mobility. This began with the joint venture battery production company, Ultium, created with LG, and now involves acquiring a stake in lithium mining.
The lithium extraction deal announced today will not only fuel GM’s EV transition but is coming online precisely when it needs it. According to Lithium Americas’ website, its Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, the company’s sole location in North America, is set to come online in 2026. It will be North America’s largest lithium extraction location, capable of fueling an estimated one million EVs per year. The mine’s estimated production start date matches at least two of the Ultium battery plant production start dates as well, and it could potentially be the sole supplier of each of them, thanks to its massive reserves.
“GM has secured all the battery material we need to build more than 1 million EVs annually in North America in 2025, and our future production will increasingly draw from domestic resources like the site in Nevada we’re developing with Lithium Americas,” said GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra. “Direct sourcing critical EV raw materials and components from suppliers in North America and free-trade-agreement countries helps make our supply chain more secure, helps us manage cell costs, and creates jobs.”
Following record earnings announced in the investor letter, and the news of its lithium investment, GM’s stock skyrocketed in pre-market trading and continued its surge as the market opened, now up by nearly 9%.
GM is far from the only American automaker looking to gain renewed resource independence during the transition to EVs. GM’s chief competitor, Ford, has taken a similar tack as it plans to move production jobs back to the United States and is also in the process of establishing its first battery production location. Ford has yet to invest in lithium extraction, another chief competitor, Tesla, has lithium partnerships with Piedmont Lithium, patented a lithium extraction method in 2021, and is currently establishing a lithium refining plant in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The current trend in the auto industry is an increased focus on the domestic production of natural resources and an increased level of vertical integration, allowing for reduced costs and higher profits. However, as battery production leaves Asian markets, particularly China, it is unclear how the global market will react and redefine itself in the coming years and decades.
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