With the ever present oil price hike not going to back down a bit, the world is seeking for a much cheaper and dependable alternative. Car Manufacturers are on the hunt to find the key for the next automotive revolution, Electric cars. And in a surprising twist, Bolivia may just be the place to start it all.
In December 2010, General Motors is scheduled to release their new Chevy Volt. The volt is not yet a pure electric vehicle (it has a gas-powered engine that operates in after about 60 kilometers) but General Motors is confident that most drivers of the plug-in vehicle could go quite some time without stopping at the petrol station.
Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s lead engineer, is optimistic about the rise of electric vehicles. “When you look at the growth that exists in countries like China, Brazil, India, Russia et cetera, we may add by 2020 300 million new cars to the planet,” he said. “We’d like many of those new cars, if not most, to be electrically driven,” he added.
Taking a quick look at the Industry, most manufacturers seem like riding along the concept, opting to run the vehicle with lithium-ion battery power. Industry analysts predict that by 2020, one in 10 vehicles in the world will an electric car.
And here is when the plot gets thicker because if that prediction turns out to be true, experts deemed that the demand for lithium will be what it is like right now for oil, unless new sources are located. And according to experts, these precious commodities might just be lying high in the Bolivian Altiplano, a place where the Andes Mountains are at their widest.
But things won’t be easy as getting there is not like a trip to the grocery. One will have to fly into La Paz, the highest capital city (in altitude) in the world to get there. Most visitors stepping off a plane in La Paz knows of the grinding headaches, loss of breath, hours of acclimatization, and other symptoms associated with altitude sickness.
From La Paz, the next destination will be the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. The place extends more than 10,000 square kilometers and contains more than 10 billion tons of salt. Under this “salt colony” hides the treasure– lithium.
According to the the leading science organization providing information on the natural resources, United States Geological Survey, the Salar de Uyuni may contain 28 percent of the world’s supply of lithium.
Lithium is the lightest known metal. For the general public, it is known as the battery that powers the Blackberry, iPod, and other fancy gadgets. For some, Lithium is important for its medicinal value, like treating depression.
But for the car manufacturers, they are seeing a bigger value — its ability to decrease oil demands as it powers the first generation of mass-produced electric vehicles.
If this is true then Bolivia, currently one of the poorest nations in South America, where nearly two thirds of the population lives in poverty, may just hit jackpot as immense economic opportunity may set in.