Tesla’s New ‘Table Salt’ Lithium Extraction Process Detailed in Patent

Image: Reddit user u/iTriMara

Tesla’s application for a new patent describes the revolutionary lithium extraction process the EV pioneer has devised to cut costs by 33%, teased previously by CEO Elon Musk as “using table salt to basically extract lithium from ore” — reports Electrek.

The extraction process was originally announced by Tesla during Battery Day 2020. During the event, Senior Vice President of Engineering Drew Baglino said that the new process would “result in a 33% reduction in lithium cost”.

Musk said the following about the new lithium extraction process:

What is the best way to take the ore and extract the lithium and do so in an environmentally-friendly way? We have been looking at from a first principle physic standpoint instead of just the way it has always been done. We found that we can actually use table salt, sodium chloride, to basically extract the lithium from the ore. Nobody has done this before to the best of my knowledge.

In the patent, Tesla summarizes the new method:

The extraction process includes providing a clay mineral comprising lithium, mixing a cation source with the clay mineral, performing a high-energy mill of the clay mineral, and performing a liquid leach to obtain a lithium rich leach solution.

The patent application, which can be found here, explains the “table salt” lithium extraction process in abundant detail. The “cation source” Tesla talks about adding to the lithium-rich mineral ore in the summary is NaCl (Sodium Chloride) — what we commonly know as “table salt”.

The chemical analysis of the resulting leach solution from Tesla’s test runs of the method has yielded favorable results. Tesla plans on utilizing the new extraction process at its own lithium claim deposit in Nevada, which spans over 10,000 acres.

If the new extraction method proves to be as effective as Tesla hopes, the EV maker will be able to combat the low-cost, local lithium sourcing deal General Motors recently struck.

Lithium is a key raw material that goes into EV batteries, and Tesla has had plans to enter the lithium mining space for a while now — much to the dismay of miners. Tesla is even building a Lithium Hydroxide refinery at its Texas Gigafactory that’s scheduled to be up and running by the end of next year.