2 Investigates

California lake holds enough lithium for all electric cars made in Georgia, U.S

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Georgia is poised to become a major player in the world of electric cars, trucks and SUVs. But right now, we’re dependent on China for a key ingredient used to make their batteries.

A lake in California could change that.

“About two years now,” answered Taylor Williams of Sandy Springs when asked how long she’s been driving an electric car.

She loves it.

“It’s very convenient. Charging is a lot cheaper than gas,” said Williams.

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Georgia leaders have plans to become a major maker of electric cars, trucks and SUVs. Rivian and Hyundai announced new multi-billion dollar plants in Georgia. SK Battery already operates here.

Most electric batteries are made in China. But Channel 2 Action News has learned that could soon change. The Salton Sea in the Southern California desert could hold the key for the U.S. to make enough electric car batteries to meet all U.S. demand.

“It gives us a platform to become a leader globally which we don’t have right now,” said Eric Spomer, the CEO of EnergySource Minerals.

He gave Channel 2 a tour of the California geothermal plant owned by a partner.

Spomer said they found a large supply of the mineral lithium, a key ingredient to make electric car batteries, at the Salton Sea. The lithium “was deposited hundreds of millions of years ago, the Colorado River digging out of the Grand Canyon,” said Spomer.


An animation shows how lithium found in brine underground will be extracted as geothermal power is produced.

In November, EnergySource Minerals hopes to break ground on a separate plant to take out the lithium and put the water and other minerals back into the ground without hurting the environment.

Spomer said he is currently in talks with one of Georgia’s electric car companies. “I’m not at liberty to say who we’re in conversations, but we’re talking,” said Spomer.

Carmen Rene is EnergySource Minerals’ Chief Financial Officer.

“What we’re doing here will change the game,” said Rene.

Between Hyundai and Rivian, 700,000 electric vehicles a year could be made in Georgia.

Rene said providing enough lithium for the batteries in those cars shouldn’t be a problem once they are up and running in 2024. “We’re heavily dependent on China. And we would like to be heavily dependent on resources that we have in the United States and we have those resources here,” said Rene.

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Channel 2 went to Rivian’s headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois in July. Rivian’s Vice President of Manufacturing Tim Fallon said the Salton Sea and Georgia will be major partners to shift the production and market of electric batteries to the U.S.

“Given where the production is and where the raw material supply is in the world it just makes sense at this time to get our batteries from closer to the source and where they’re being built,” said Fallon.

Back in Cobb County, Drew Merkin — who has been driving an electric car for about a year — said he likes that the U.S is working to produce electric vehicles.

“I do think we’re doing a good job and we’re making the right step forward,” said Merkin.

There is enough lithium in the Salton Sea to produce 300,000 tons. That’s enough that EnergySource Minerals is willing to share its environmentally friendly extraction process with other U.S. companies so the U.S. will no longer have to rely on China.