Lithium Battery Electric Supply Chain: Workforce Analysis
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and requires collective and responsive action. The transition to zero emission vehicles is critical to combatting global warming and to mitigating the subsequent extreme weather patterns to which disadvantaged communities are most vulnerable and which have made parts of the world increasingly uninhabitable. In California alone, the transportation sector accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions and thus, developing lithium and the entire advanced battery and electric vehicle manufacturing supply chain must be a top climate action priority for the state.
Meeting the demand for electrified transportation depends critically on plentiful and clean sources of lithium. Today, more than 95% of the world’s lithium is produced in just four countries—Australia, Chile, China and Argentina—through either hard rock mining or large evaporation ponds. Each of these methods has significant environmental and social impacts, requiring unsustainable levels of water and/or land, with high levels of associated greenhouse gas emissions. In the far southeast corner of California, the counties of Imperial and San Bernardino have valuable assets—critical raw materials and human/social capital—that will enable California to lead the electricity and mobility industries of the 21st century. Imperial County is home to the Salton Sea geothermal resource area. Industry experts estimate that by 2030, the region could supply almost half of today’s global lithium demand and in a way that is far more environmentally sustainable than in other places nationally and globally. Further north, the Mountain Pass area of San Bernardino County is home to one of the world’s largest and highest quality rare earth deposits, which are critical for the magnets that drive motors such as those in electric vehicles (EVs), wind turbines, and drones.
In collaboration with New Energy Nexus, the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside, and the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the UCSC Institute for Social Transformation is conducting a detailed workforce analysis of employment opportunities and workforce development issues in the Lithium-Battery and Electric Vehicle supply chain. Rooted in the recovery of immense lithium reserves in the Salton Sea geothermal resource, the goal of this work is to contribute to building an inclusive innovation ecosystem for a fully integrated advanced battery and electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing supply chain in Inland Southern California with public purpose and value at its core.