Matt talks to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s CEO, about their direct extraction lithium mining pilot project in Bolivia, and what they’re planning for a lithium metal next gen battery.
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And it’s, it’s really quite cool. But first, for regular listeners and viewers, I am not Sean Ferrell. It’s just me, Matt, for this episode, at least a little behind the scenes. Um, Sean and I record these episodes on a service called zencaster. And, uh, we had a little bit of, uh, snafu this weekend when we recorded.
For some reason my audio just cut out, so our discussion around your feedback on the last episode of undecided was just lost. Now, regardless, my conversation with Teague was always meant to be part of this episode. So, without further ado, let’s get into my chat with Teague. Just to kind of kick things off, could you kind of give us a, a recap again about like in general, what Energy Energy X is and what the technology is that you’re bringing to the market?
Yeah, definitely. So Energy X is a lithium extraction and refinery company. Uh, we focus on basically the battery material supply chain before it gets to the cell. So think about what materials go into batteries. We focus on specifically lithium and how lithium comes out of the ground, like out of the earth, and then is extracted and refined.
To get it to be a battery quality lithium material.
Right. What, what inspired you to start Energy X? What was the original inspiration to do it? So like why lithium? Why lithium ?
So, it’s, it’s a pretty wild story to be honest. I, I came up with the idea when I was traveling through Bolivia, uh, a, a place that is, you know, probably seldom, uh, or low on the list.
Vacation spots, uh, , but I, I found myself in Bolivia, and Bolivia actually has the world’s largest salt flat. It’s a beautiful place called Sard de U Uni. And unbeknownst to me, while I was on this tour, I found out that this salt flat is actually the world’s largest lithium reserve. And this was 2018. Mm-hmm. , Uh, I had been driving a Tesla for five years at this point now, and I just felt like electric vehicles were gonna be.
The thing of the future and that, you know, back in 2018, I, I don’t, I don’t know the exact number, but Tesla is probably selling, you know, 20,000 a year. Well, fast forward to today, you know, Tesla is selling 200,000 a quarter and, uh, I, I saw that coming, right? I saw this exponential curve of electric vehicles being produced and sold, and.
Electric vehicles run on batteries, and they’re called lithium ion batteries. And I said, Lithium is going to be an extraordinarily important material if we’re gonna be able to transition to electric vehicles. So that’s why I started to start, start a lithium company and focus on how we can produce lithium more efficiently, uh, more cost effectively and in in larger quantities and abundance.
Because the way that Lithium’s produced today is basically through two main processes, right? There’s like the brine and then there’s through mining. So it’s What about, what is it about Energy X’s approach that is, makes it so different from what’s done today?
So lithium, Yeah, you’re right. Lithium comes from two sources predominantly, uh, hard rock mining, which.
Like from ore spagemean or you can think about a big open pit mine. Uh, and then Brine and Brine is, uh, another word for really salty water. So, uh, they pump up the brine from subsurface, not, not too deep, it’s pretty shallow, and they put it into these huge evaporation ponds and they let the sun naturally evaporate the water, the H two O, and then the salts that are dissolved.
One of the salts being lith. Others being magnesium, potassium, sodium, et cetera, precipitate or crash out. And this happens in a sequence where it takes about 18 months to go through all of these ponds, and finally you’re left with lithium that’s more concentrated in the solution at the end. And I saw these ponds and I just.
There has to be a better way to do this. And it was basically this, this step change in technology, like a paradigm shift from, uh, an uncontrolled natural evaporative process to, uh, a mechanical controlled separation process using. 21st century technology, like membrane separations, solveant extraction, uh, ion absorption, things that are used in other industries, but just hadn’t been applied to lithium yet because lithium just became important within the last five years.
Right. I mean, you, you already just touched on it right there. I did have a question around the, it’s not just one technology that you have, it’s a series of technologies and how you’re combining them makes it. Right.
Yeah. So this is, this is actually a new occurrence since the last time we spoke. Um, Okay.
We started out, uh, I mean the, the general principle of like moving from a natural, you know, low control type system to a high controlled mechanical system is, is the transition, right? In terms of how we produce lithium. We started out with membranes. That was our first technology, and that was a very specific membrane for a very specific problem that Bolivia had with their brines
uh, what we learned is that not, there’s really no, uh, brine that’s the same, so like the brines in Bolivia are different than the brines in Chile that are different than the brines in Argentina that are different than the brines in the United States. Right? Mm-hmm. . And when we say different, the three main characteristics that you have to consider, uh, is one, what is the starting lithium concentration?
Right? So there’s lithium in ocean water, right? Like you can go into the Pacific and there’s one part per million. Lithium. Right. That’s a really, really low concentration. That’s unfeasible never gonna happen. In terms of real brines, like if you’re under 200 parts per million, that’s relatively low. Some of these brines in chili have 1500 parts per million.
That’s really high. Right? Right. So one is the concentration of lithium starting. Two, What is the impurity profile? So what are the other salts that are dissolved? Is there a lot of magnesium? Is there a lot of sulfate? Is there a lot of calcium? Is there a lot of sodium? And what is the ratio of those salts to lithium that has a big effect on which technology you use?
To separate the lithium from all the impurities. Mm-hmm. . And then number three is what is the temperature? So if this brine is coming out as a geothermal brine, which is used to create power in like California, they have big geothermal power plants, uh, that has a big effect on which technology you use.
Trying to treat something that’s a hundred degrees Celsius versus 20 degrees Celsius, you need to take that into consideration. Mm-hmm. . So when we started out, We started out with just membranes treating ambient temperature. Brine in Bolivia that had a big problem of magnesium to to lithium. They had a lot of magnesium and a little lithium, and we developed a membrane that could do that separation very well.
Okay, so we put it down there. Uh, we put a pilot plan in Bolivia early this year. Uh, we were one of the first to ever deploy and operate a pilot plant in the. With direct lithium extraction technology and we got great results. However, last year when we were testing Argentinian brine, magnesium was not a big problem and, and the brines they shipped us to, our laboratories had very low levels of magnesium.
So these membranes that we had developed to do lithium magnesium separation, Okay. Weren’t effective. And that’s when we realized that there is not a one size fits all technology. And that if we wanted to be the leading lithium extraction and refinery company and be able to treat any customer that came to us seeking direct lithium extraction as a solution, that we needed to have a portfolio of technologies that could address different brands and different characteristics as.
Right. And so what are those new, uh, technologies that you’re, that you’re pulling in?
So in addition to selective membranes, the second is solve an extraction and solve. An extraction is a widely used technology in metals and mining. It’s used with over a dozen different metals. It’s used for about 25% of the entire world’s copper production, but it’s just.
Making it applicable to lithium, right? Which is the hard part. And then the third is, uh, ion absorption. So you basically use a resin that absorbs the lithium, and then you need to strip the lithium out in a subsequent process. But each of those have their pros and cons depending on the, and those three characteristics that I mentioned.
Um, there’s also. There’s also other variables, um, that are constraints in certain areas. So one would be water, right? If you need, uh, a lot of fresh water to strip lithium from an ion absorption resin. Mm-hmm. , that’s probably gonna be hard in Argentina in these high desert salt flat. Don’t have a lot of water availability.
So there’s a lot of different, uh, variables that you need to consider on a customer by customer basis when you’re trying to figure out an end-to-end solution of lithium extraction in a refinery.
But with these three technologies, you basically can dial them in in different ways to achieve different goals for
Exactly, and you actually, so you actually use these technologies in combination for different steps, right? So in the very beginning, if you have a very low concentration, Brine, you may use an eye absorption technology and then that, uh, flows into a solve an extraction to get it up to a certain percentage.
And then maybe you use a membrane for polishing or for a conversion step to get to the battery grade lith. That an algae or, uh, a Samsung wants to purchase to put in their batteries.
Right, Right now for your Bolivia plant, I, I, I read that you had great results coming out of that. So could you talk a little bit about the results and then I have a follow-up question about Bolivia itself.
With such good results, why did you not get selected? Which is my big
question. Yeah, yeah. I’m, I’m more than happy to talk about all of that. So, uh, Bolivia was a wonderful experience for us. Bolivia is a state owned entity. Uh, the, the, the b lithium company that operates there is called Y L. and they, they were the first ones that gave us a real opportunity to put a pilot in the field.
Uh, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. Uh, they, they basically held an international, uh, tender for direct lithium extraction companies. They had dozens of applicants from all over the world, and they chose, uh, eight companies to participate in this pilot program. Um, one wa one was from Russia. Four were from China, two were from the us, and one was from Argentina.
And that, that really showed that it was, you know, a, a global competition for this, right? Like they weren’t biased towards China or Russia. However, I think that Bolivia is a little bit more aligned with China and Russia just on kind of a, a global perspective than say the US. , you know, some of those circumstances are completely outta my control, right?
Mm-hmm. , right? But in terms of the, the competition and the results themselves of these eight companies, which any logical person would probably say, these are the top eight companies, uh, that are doing direct lithium extraction and refinery. We were the only company that actually put a physical pilot plant down in the.
In the Salar and operated it for an extended period of time. Uh, we operated that pilot for five consecutive months. Every other company just had Brine shipped back to their laboratories and tested it in, you know, a controlled environment, uh, for as long as they could, but a relatively short period of time based on the amount of Brine that you’re able to ship halfway around the world.
Right. So, so I think that that was a huge advantage to us. Um, and, and really the, the validation of our technology, like when these other companies are doing these tests, they are also doing the analysis of the tests, right? Mm-hmm. with us, we, we didn’t bring our analysis equipment down there. We literally got the brine that Bolivia gave us.
We ran it through our systems, and then we handed it to them, handed it back to them, and they tested it in their own, uh, laboratories and then gave us the results of what we did. Right, right. Um, so, so it was basically the ultimate third party validation. Right. Uh, we. Estimated that we would hit 90% recovery rate.
Um, we ended up exceeding that and hitting 94% recovery rate, which is phenomenal. And we felt like everything was going for us. Unfortunately, there, there are greater powers that be, and you know, I also, you know, There, there’s a silver lining in all of this, right? And, and Bolivia said that they were gonna select the winners on May 15th of this year.
Uh, they have yet to do so. Um, I think that, you know, I don’t, I don’t know what goes on internally, there, but like Bolivia’s been trying to do this for 15 years and, and hasn’t got to commercial production yet. And you know this right, is another example. You know, I don’t, I don’t, Politics are a big deal in Bolivia.
Yeah. You know, I, I’m standing by ready and willing to go down there and help them if the deal is right. You know, I heard that, uh, the commercial terms that they wanted were a little bit unreasonable, um, from whatever group they end up going with. But at the end of the day, the most important thing for them is producing lithium.
And they haven’t done that. Mm-hmm. . And we prove that we could do it for them. So, You know, they’re, they’re the, the reason they blamed on not working with us. Uh, I turned in our final report 10 minutes late. Um, 10 minutes. 10 minutes late, 10. It was a very elaborate report. It was a 60 page report that not only included our actual results, but uh, our commercialization efforts.
We had put together a large consortium of partners at all different stages to help. Develop their lithium supply chain, uh, into batteries. Uh, we put, we put together a whole ESG program, Energy X committed to building schools, uh, in the region. Uh, they’re near the salt flats as well as, uh, improving their healthcare, healthcare sector.
So I had this 60 page report and, you know, I did it in English and then I needed to have it translated into Spanish. And then I need to, to compress it to under 20 megabytes and all of. Took a little bit of extra time and I was literally sweating at my computer, like trying to like, make it compressed faster.
But uh, you know, that’s what happened. So.
So even though, even though Bolivia didn’t work out, are you still happy with the results? It sounds like you are happy with the results that you got out of the, your team and the
technology. Yeah, yeah. Oh, I couldn’t be happier. Like at at third party validation.
Bolivia gave us the chance to prove that we can operate a pilot plan in the field. And now there’s, you know, a ton of other customers that, that saw that and, and now have belief in us that we can deliver. And, and a lot of other people want pilot plants, and we’re building five more pilot plants right now.
Um, and we, and it’s like one of the things that I really take from Elon is the way, like if you look at SpaceX versus Blue Origin, , both these companies started at the same time, right? Yeah. Why is SpaceX so much more advanced? And one of the things that he really talks about is iterative improvement. That progress is the equivalent of number of iterations, times progress in between iterations.
Mm-hmm. , And that’s what we did, like this pilot plant that we put into the. Was our absolute mvp, MVP standing for minimum viable product. Like it was like we just wanted to get something in the field and test it and see what happened. Right? Right. We needed a partner to allow us to put that in the field that had infrastructure with wells and electricity and you know, all the other stuff that’s needed and, and the Brine resource and Bolivia provided that to us.
We learned so. From testing in the field for five months, we’ve brought all of that knowledge back. We’ve made our systems bigger for this next phase of five pilots. Uh, more robust, better materials and piping. We learned about the productivity of the salt environment. Mm-hmm. , uh, you know, we learned, we, we had, we made software upgrades, um, just across the board.
These next systems will be better than the first and. The next systems after that will be better than the second, and we’ll just keep iterating and improving until direct. Lithium extraction is commercialized. And, and you know, hopefully we’re the leaders ,
Right? So it’s it. Last time we talked, we did talk about how if once you prove out the pilot, the concept, you’re probably gonna have a lot of people knocking at your door because , there aren’t a lot of people doing this.
So it sounds like there are people knocking at your door now. Asking to work with you. Banging it down, . Okay. Which brings me to the, like the, um, the IRA bill that was just passed and the other bills that have been passed in the United States recently, which are trying to incentivize bringing supply chain back to the United States.
I’m gonna guess you’re probably getting a lot of calls and conversations with people here in the United States.
Yeah, it’s, it’s huge for us and, and just huge for the United States like, The lithium brines in South America are higher quality than the us. Like there’s no denying that, right? They, they have starting concentrations of lithium between 800 and 1500 or 2000.
When you come to the US you’re looking at ones that are 300 ppms, you know, that are, that’s significantly lower, right? Mm-hmm. , but we do. Substantial resources in the US The, the biggest four areas are California, Salton Sea, Great Salt Lake, and, and the companies that operate there. Mm-hmm. , Arkansas, Smackover region, and then Nevada.
Right. In terms of Brine resources, I think there’s some hard rock in other places and things like that, but I mean, those are really substantial resources. I think that the US has about 17% of the global known reserves for lithium, however, it’s much less economic. To try to work with 200 ppm Brine parts per million mm-hmm.
then 1500 like that on a linear scale is seven times less, more at less attractive. But if the US government is going to subsidize or incentivize people like me and, and all the way to the top or the, the bottom of the supply chain, like the end users in auto manufacturers to invest domestically here to make that happen.
You know, now that becomes a much more attractive proposition to try to focus, you know, our bandwidth and resources on us lithium, uh, supply chain.
So those bills really are gonna make a difference in opening up the supply chain,
Make a difference. And it’s not just the Inflation Reduction Act, the Department of Energy is putting grants and loans towards.
Like big loans, the do, the DOE just loaned GM and LG two and a half billion. Uh, there’s certain components of that to work with small businesses. Um, they have other pockets of not loan money, but grant money in the tens of millions. Um, the big loan money is going to bring the processing, right? So once you extract it from the ground, you need to process it or refine it into battery grade material.
So keeping, I mean, the worst thing ever would be to bring up the brine and then have to ship it over to China to process it, right? Yeah. We wanna keep that, We wanna keep the whole supply chain here, so there’s tons of different, uh, incentives. That, you know, the I the IRA bill is like the big, big daddy, but there’s a lot of, I mean there’s billions of dollars that are, that’s going into building out battery materials and battery supply chains for electric vehicles,
So if we’re starting to build up plants, if we end up building up plants here in California and other locations, what does the footprint look like? Cuz obviously Brine Pools are miles and miles and miles of Brine Pool. Obviously we don’t need that for your process. Like what is the footprint of a facility
Oh, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s minimal. I mean, it’s , a couple, a couple acres, you know, 10 acres. Right. Something in that vicinity. Um, yeah, these are, these are just like warehouse facilities, uh, that you’re processing Brine through, basically pumping it up, extracting the lithium, uh, and then reinjecting it so you don’t disturb the water table.
So it’s, You mentioned that you’re working with five potential partners right now, like working out a deal for five different people. Not asking who they are, but what is the plan for Energy X? Like what is your roadmap for the next six to 12 months, 12 to 24 months? Like what is your rollout plan right now?
Yeah, so I, I, you know, we’re trying to move at, at lightning speed here. The price of lithium has gone from $10,000 a ton to $80,000 a ton in the past 12 months, I think. I think like, I can’t remember when we last talked. It was probably 12 months ago, right? Like, yeah. This conversation today is in a whole different universe than it was back then.
Like, I, I didn’t, couldn’t foresee. Price spike coming . Nobody. Yeah, nobody could. Yeah. But the, the, the projected demand was certainly there, right? Mm-hmm. . And now as big companies like GM and Ford and Tesla, well, not so much Tesla, but gm, they’re looking to transition 7 million cars from i c to electric.
Mm-hmm. . When they’re thinking about doing that, you have to secure that whole supply chain. You can’t go build your car and then not have the lithium to build the battery and put into it. Right. And meanwhile, Tesla is looking to scale up to 20 million cars a year. So there’s this global battle over lithium right now to secure this supply chain for the next 10 to 15 years.
Right. So, That all comes down to today, right? How do we produce as much lithium as possible, as fast as possible? So what I think about the next six to 12 months, 12 to 24 months, on a more granular level, we are trying to deploy these next five pilots into the field as soon as possible. Hopefully that happens within the next six months.
Mm-hmm. hopefully sooner. And then from there, we’re already building the next bigger demonstration units. Right? So it’s all about scaling this technology. The first pilot that we put in Bolivia was very small. It was just to prove that our technology could work over an extended period of time in real field operating conditions and not break down right.
Now these, these next units are like 10 to 15 times the volume of of Brine that can process through them on an hourly basis, or I guess any basis really. And then demonstration units in 2023 will be like 15 times that. So you’re looking at right? Yeah. Like a 225 x. From the first pilot to demonstration in 2023.
And then from there, our systems are either modular, so a demonstration unit is like one full commercial stack, and then you just, it can produce say, 300 tons of lithium, and then if you want 30,000 tons of lithium, then you just. Need a hundred of those or for solve an extraction operates in something called Equilibrium.
So if our demonstration units can produce a hundred tons of lithium a year and it’s operating in in equilibrium, that’s directly scalable to a hundred thousand tons a year because it’s operating under the same conditions, but it’s proving that a hundred ton per year scale to. The customer and giving them comfort and confidence that you can go all the way to a full commercial.
So once you get to that demonstrator phase, it’s really modular. Then at that point you can build up any, it’s
either modular or equilibrium.
Okay. And, and just for context, how much lithium are we talking about at that scale? Like how much, how many tons of lithium are produced now? Like worldwide versus like really?
Yeah. So the globe, the global, uh, supply in 2022 was around 500,000 times.
Okay. And how much do you think Energy X is gonna be able to produce, like in a year? Like what’s your, what’s your goal? I mean, it’s hard to predict this, but it’s like it, like it sounds like you can scale to whatever’s needed.
I mean that’s, that’s the idea, right? It’s this paradigm shift from the old conventional methodology to the new. Next generation, uh, methodology. Right. And I think that, you know, next year hopefully we’re producing a hundred tons. Like, uh, it’s not about how much we produce next year, it’s about how much we produce in 2030.
Right, right, right. Because in 2030, the global, the global demand is looking to be like between two and 3 million tons. . Right. And then 2040, you’re looking at five plus million tons per year. Um, I mean, you, you essentially have to be able to produce enough for 80 million cars. Right? Right. I mean, by, by 2040 theoretically all cars will be transition to ev.
Um, when I’m, yeah. When I’m just looking at, when I’m looking at what you guys are doing it. It’s like the iPhone moment for lithium mining. I never thought I would be interested in lithium mining , but it’s like, it feels like the iPhone moment where it’s like the people that are still doing the brine pools, at what point are they gonna realize, Oh, oh crap, we’re being out produced because it takes them 18 months to
How long did it take Blackberry to realize it when the iPhone came out? . Where’s Blackberry these days? I dunno. Yeah. No, but I mean, it, it is that, it is that moment. And you know, Elon, in his Q2 earnings call said that lithium refining, he said, I encourage entrepreneurs to go become lithium refiners. It’s like having a passport to print money, and
And here you are going. I’m here.
Thanks. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve been working on this for four years, like, but it’s the biggest bottleneck for, for. Why do you think that the cyber, they haven’t started producing cyber trucks, right? Right. They have three plus million pre-orders. Granted, they need to build a factory, but now Giga Austin’s been up for, I don’t know, 12 months or more.
Mm-hmm. , uh, you know, they need to source the other supply, like they need to get the steel to make it right. It’s like cold rolled steel, but it’s the battery and it’s the materials to go into the battery. Um, is the biggest bottleneck for electric vehicles. So yeah, we’re in a, we’re in a great position right now.
Do, now obviously the supply chain issues are huge, like what you’re describing, but are the supply chain issues potentially hitting you as well? Are you feeling any kind of pinch because of the supply chain? Um,
Yeah, I mean, supply chain, like across the board is a bigger problem today than it was say, five years ago before Covid.
Yeah. Uh, but you know, my materials that I need are generally available. Like we need to manufacture membranes and there’s already millions and millions of square meters of membrane that are produced. Like granted, we have our own proprietary formulation that’s lithium selective. Uh, so we just, you know, went out and purchased a million dollar membrane manufacturing line.
Um, we need to build the stacks that the membranes go in, uh, and you. There’s already hundreds of thousands of those, like there’s huge desalination plants that take ocean water and turn it into fresh drinking water. Right? So that this is off the shelf technology, right? Of the three technologies I mentioned, selective membranes, solvent extraction, ion exchange, these are all heavily used technologies.
I just explained membranes. Mm-hmm. in terms of solving extraction, there’s already solving extraction plants. That can produce hundreds of thousands of tons of copper. Right? So it’s just developing the specific extracted. that is lithium selective that we have done right. And same goes for, for, um, eye absorption.
So in terms of my supply chain, I’m pretty confident. But there is that scaling challenge. Like, you know, as we go from in the lab where we were in 2019 and 2020 to building a pilot and then scaling to demonstration and then full commercialization. These things take, you know, months if not years of planning ahead.
Right. One question I do have about costs, like how much does this, like what’s the cost per ton of lithium and what does your process save over other methods?
Yeah. So I mean, at the end of the day, it all comes down to cost, right? Yeah. And our cost per ton is drastically reduced from conventional methods.
So, , there’s, there’s really two important factors here. One is cost, two is environmental, right? Mm-hmm. . And three is three is really actually, uh, like feasibility. Um, you can’t just go build these huge evaporation ponds and stay Arkansas, right? It’s, it’s a, it’s a forest, right? It’s covered by trees. Nobody’s gonna allow people to cut down trees to build ponds, right?
Um, and, and two, even if they did do that, These, the, the only reason that the ponds work in South America is because they’re extremely high elevations that have essentially zero rainfall. I mean, the whole point is you’re trying to evaporate water and it’s just raining back down . And then, and then three, uh, they have very high uv.
UV rays, so it enables quicker evaporation, right? Ponds would never work in, in these places that have good lithium, right? So those are some of the advantages. Advantages for direct lithium extraction. But in terms of cost, all this is greatly reduced too. So our cost drops from. Say about $5,000 a ton of opex with current methods to about $2,500.
But whoa, all that’s really, you know, with the price of what lithium is today, like these existing lithium producers are making money hand over fist. I mean, you can go look at Almar and SQM and some of these stocks over the past 12, 24 months. And it’s, uh, you know, . Yeah. Pretty, pretty good investment, right?
Yeah. And Energy X is not, I know you have grander goals. So I did wanna talk about, cuz you’re also looking into batteries,
correct? We are, we are. I mean, I think that, uh, so our slogan is Powering the Future, but our sub slogan is from Brine to Battery, which, It’s a little bit more like not many people really know what that means, Brine, but from Brine to battery.
So we want to be able to extract, like pump up the brine from subsurface and take this essentially like water. It’s really salty water all the way to what goes into your battery and develop new architectures of next generation batteries. So we don’t have plans to. A mass battery manufacturer. Mm-hmm. , But we are, uh, Innovating along this whole supply chain from, okay, first we need to extract the lithium from this other mixture of impurities, right?
Mm-hmm. and, and what the product of that is, is a lithium chloride solution, uh, still in liquid form then, , we need to take that lithium chloride and turn it into the battery grade, either lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide in a salt form. Mm-hmm. . And we’ve come up with innovative, cost, efficient ways to do that, that are better than, uh, the current methods.
Right. So we’re, so we’re saving in that. Section of the, uh, processing value chain. Then we take the lithium and there’s already pretty standardized ways to put it into cathodes, but we also can take. The lithium chloride and turn it directly into lithium metal, which is used as anode. So now we have the an a new anode and a cathode, and we’re developing the separator.
That is the thing that goes in between those two, uh, that creates a battery. So we’re developing next generation lithium metal batteries and looking to partner with large. Uh, cell makers to, to make these chemistries on a large scale for electric vehicles. Okay. You’re kind of
blowing my mind. Let me see if I understand this.
You’re basically reevaluating the entire manufacturing process based around how the lithium’s extracted and what you get out of it to optimize the entire thing. Exactly. Right now it’s like everything’s compartmentalized, so it’s like people aren’t optimizing for that, but you’re trying to optimize it down to as efficient.
Life cycles. You can the whole pipeline.
Yeah. I mean that’s, this is, this is a sector that has never been studied before. And, and when I say never, I mean like batteries have just become important. When they were, when, when electric vehicles came along, Like before that, Yeah. I mean, yes, you have batteries in your computer and your rechargeable batteries in your computer, in your phone.
Um, but it takes 10,000 iPhones to make one electric vehicle battery. So if you’re trying to make a million electric vehicles, that’s 10 billion iPhones. That’s more iPhones that have ever been made. That’s more smartphones that have ever been made in the history of smartphones. Probably, maybe somewhere around that, just for 1 million cars.
And we’re talking about making, you know, millions and millions and millions of cars every year, right? So nobody’s ever, Well, not nobody, This energy transition, there’s so much room for innovation and rethinking the way that that it’s been done because it hasn’t been optimized the way that it could be.
Right? And just in the four years that Energy X has been around, we’ve uncovered so many opportunities to improve. Um, like a, a unit operation that can be extremely cost saving, that there’s no, we, we need to, uh, you know, follow, like, work on that initiative. Right.
So this is, this is first principal’s thinking at work, what you’re talking about.
Yeah. It ties right back to what you said in the beginning of like when you saw the Brine Pools, you thought there has to be a better way. It’s like, You’re looking at the entire supply at Medford condition. Yeah. Wow. That’s,
that’s , That’s like, like for instance, there, there is a handful of companies that are now public, publicly traded companies like quantum scape.
Well, quantum scape is a less, but, uh, solid, solid energy systems, um, solid power. Uh, and these other companies that are making. Battery chemistries based on lithium metal. Mm-hmm. . But the total global supply of lithium metal is only 5,000 tons. If they want to succeed that supply chain to, to secure that lithium metal needs to develop and right now to get from Brine to lithium metal is like 15 steps.
Mm-hmm. , and today lithium metal. If you thought the cost. Lithium that goes into the catheter is expensive. Lithium metal, which is for the anode costs like 400, and I just bought some lithium metal for a one roll of lithium metal to do our testing for $10,000. It would be the equivalent. If I would’ve bought one ton of this would’ve been 10 million.
Oh my God. For one time. , they’re gonna need. So much of this in order to build batteries for these next generation batteries, it takes 15 steps to produce lithium metal. We’re working on shrinking that down to three steps and cutting 80% out of the cost to get this material. We’re just trying to innovate throughout this entire lithium supply chain from Brine to battery.
Yeah. Unless we
to, You had mentioned how you were, you had conversations with John B. Good enough and his. Is this, is this basically the culmination of those conversations and those researchers? Is, is that what led to this whole team works for us?
Energy X Battery team is the former John. Good enough.
University of Texas battery team. John just had his hundredth birthday on July 26th. Uh, he. A few hundred people come out for his birthday party. I think those goals talk about goals, right? ? Mm-hmm. and uh, now we have, um, several, I mean yeah, pretty much anybody that was working in his lab at University of Texas now works at Energy X and our VP of Battery Technology is a gentleman named Nick Gr.
Dr. Nick Grund, who is his last PhD student. And then we have several of his post docs and. You know, there’s been a huge, um, knowledge transfer over from what he was doing To what? To what’s happening here at Energy X.
That’s awesome. When, when, obviously moving Target, but like is there a timeframe where we expect to hear some more from you on the battery side of the business?
Like are you talking like three, five years down the road?
No, I mean, much, much sooner than that. The way that we, like Energy X wasn’t the first company to try to do direct lithium extraction. There were a few before us that were two, three years that started mm-hmm. , But I think that we caught up quickly and then surpassed by getting our pilot into the ground and, and proving that we could do that.
I think about that a lot Along the same lines as some of these other battery c. that are working on chemistries. First we started out just screening materials, right? Mm-hmm. , what are solid state separators that, uh, are compatible with lithium metal. Um, and we would do that just on a screening basis. Then we took it up to the coin cell.
And we did, uh, symmetric coin cells. So lithium metal on both sides. Then we went into full coin cells where we had lithium metal, our separator and a cathode, and now we’re doing pouch cells. We did single layer. Now we’re doing one amp hour, 10 layer lithium metal pouch cells. Oh, wow. Um, I don’t have one here.
I have some, I have some lithium here though. I have some lithium . That’s awesome. This is lithium. This is lithium carbonate. This is lithium hydroxide. So lithium hydroxide goes in NMC batteries, nickel, manganese, cobalt, cathodes, lithium carbonate goes into lfp, lithium, iron phosphate, cathodes. We have, uh, we’re not quite working.
We have some 46. Cylindrical cells here. Uh, but we’re, we’re, we’re, that’s, that’s the next step. Right now we’re at 10 layer one amp hour lithium metal pouch cells that have cycled over a hundred times. Wow. Um, so getting up to 300 is really where we start commercial discussions. And if you have a 800 plus cycle lithium metal pouch cell that has between 400 and 500 wat hours per kilogram.
It’s game over right now. Current lithium ion batteries have about 250 wat hours per kilogram. Um, if they’re really good. So getting up to 400 to 500 range, you’re basically doubling the mileage or doubling your cell phone capacity, anything like that.
That’s basically what quantum scape and solid power, they’re all racing towards that as well.
That’s interesting. Exactly. Yeah. Grand ambitions for energy x. I love it. That’s great, . So is there anything else you wanted to kind of, uh, touch on that we
haven’t touched on? So we, we do have, so. You know, Energy X I think we try to break barriers in different areas, both on technology and, uh, kind of the way that we’ve been running the company.
Um, even though we’re a private company, we have utilized, uh, crowdfunding, which I think might be noteworthy for some of your audience. Mm-hmm. and anybody can go. Basically what I’ve seen is that these companies that become unicorns and then go. The opportunity to be a part of that is, is relegated to the very small venture capitalists or private equity, and I think that’s unfair.
Why can the average investor who you know, has a small stock trading account be limited from investing in that? And that’s what crowdfunding has enabled. Uh, so anybody can go onto our website and invest in energy. For as little as $500 and invest in a pre IPO company and be part of something before, you know, it’s super expensive, right?
Yeah. So we’ve, we’ve done that and we actually have over 5,000 investors in Energy X, uh, and have raised over 20 million to date. So I think that that’s kind of something cool that people who watch your show might be interested. Gets rare for
a company to do that. Usually it’s all behind doors.
It’s rare, but it’s also a new thing.
It basically decentralizes and democratizes investing. Um, and I think that giving people that opportunity is something that is exciting for them and exciting for us. Like, . Literally every day I talk to investors that send me articles or, you know, show me a new technology that they think is interesting, and who knows if I incorporate that and, and, you know, want that to become an initiative of Energy X and they’re doing that because they have a vested interest in Energy X.
Yeah. That’s really cool. Well, thanks for sharing that. Yeah. And thanks for taking the time to talk to me again. I really appreciate this. It’s, I’m very excited. About Energy X and seeing where you guys are going the time we talked and it’s like I cannot wait to see where you are a year from now.
It’s gonna be awesome.
I was just about to say, we’ll do a check in in a year from now. Hopefully I have some better news
then. So I’d like to thank TE again for taking the time to talk to me. And if you’d like to support the show, please consider reviewing us an Apple, Google, Spotify, wherever you found us.
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