General Motors has doubled down on their commitment to electrification. On Friday, GM announced that they have reached an agreement for strategic investment and commercial collaboration with California-based Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) to source lithium.

The process of procuring the lithium is markedly different and more environmentally friendly than traditional pit mining and evaporation ponds that are used in most other operations. CTR’s extraction method is a closed-loop direct extraction process that needs a much smaller footprint and produces much lower levels of air pollution.

The purpose of such an agreement is to lower the cost of materials for producing high-energy batteries for electric cars. As you’ll recall, General Motors has committed to eliminating tailpipe emissions from their whole fleet of light-duty vehicles by 2035. As other manufacturers have similar commitments, the world’s current lithium production is simply nowhere close to meeting the coming demand. With the strategic investment, GM can control costs for one of the necessary materials in EVs rather than rely on sourcing elsewhere.

Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain said, “Lithium is critical to battery production today and will only become more important as consumer adoption of EVs increases, and we accelerate towards our all-electric future. By securing and localizing the lithium supply chain in the US, we’re helping ensure our ability to make powerful, affordable, high mileage EVs while also helping to mitigate environmental impact and bring more low-cost lithium to the market as a whole. GM looks forward to working with CTR, in addition to state and local leaders, in achieving these goals.”

Lithium to come from Salton Sea

The press release confirms that the location for CTR’s lithium production is the Salton Sea in Southern California. CTR has previously said that the shallow lake in SoCal can produce 40% of global lithium demand through processes similar to geothermal heating and cooling. It’s no coincidence that the area is called Lithium Valley.

Compared to Chinese pit mines, the closed-loop direct extraction method produces just 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The collaboration with GM in the Salton Sea will be part of the CTR Hell’s Kitchen Lithium and Power Project. Beyond producing a product that’s growing exponentially in demand, the Hell’s Kitchen project will generate up to 1,100 megawatts of electricity, create 1,980 direct jobs, and add around $350 million to the economy.

Lithium is key to Ultium development

GM’s Ultium battery system is set to be the platform for a multitude of new EV models. The battery design is unique in that the cells are pouch-like rather than cylindrical with the intent of bringing battery prices down to under $100 per kWh.

A constant pipeline of lithium is foundational to keeping up with developing these lithium-ion cells and making the Ultium battery project viable for Gm vehicles and licensing the design for other carmakers too.

In addition to Factory ZERO at the former Detroit-Hamtramck site, a second Ultium battery factory is being built in Spring Hill, Tennessee at a cost of $2.3 billion. It’s expected to open in 2023.

Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic by submitting a letter to the editor here, or connect with us at

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date or catch-up on all of our podcasts on demand.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.