To promote environmentally-friendly, resource-efficient extraction of lithium, a key material for EV batteries, the BMW group is investing, through its venture capital fund, BMW i Ventures , in an innovative process developed by US startup Lilac Solutions which has developed and patented an ion exchange technology that will significantly improve efficiency, costs and sustainability by extracting lithium from brine resources, which are natural deposits of salt water.

“Innovative technologies provide better, more sustainable and more efficient access to raw materials. By investing in startups, we are speeding up development of new technologies, stimulating competition and providing impetus that will make it easier for young companies to access the market,” said Wolfgang Obermaier, SVP indirect goods and services, raw materials, production partners at the group. “By investing in Lilac Solutions, we are supporting technological progress in the field of lithium extraction, with a focus on responsible and sustainable methods.”

Lilac Solutions has developed a new ion exchange technology to make mining lithium from brine resources more efficient and cost-effective. The company seeks to significantly reduce environmental impact compared to conventional methods, while, at the same time, protecting local communities and ecosystems. The technology has already been proven in initial field pilots and must now demonstrate that it can be scaled and industrialised in the mid-term. The process could then be used with brines worldwide, even if they have a low lithium content.

The group has made sustainability and resource efficiency central to the company’s strategic direction. A key aspect is compliance with environmental and social standards in the supply chain. Eliminating infringements of human rights and environmental standards presents a particular challenge in the case of critical raw materials – as is the case with lithium. For this raw material, group purchasing has implemented additional measures and is sourcing lithium directly from the mines and making it available to battery cell suppliers. In this way, the company creates complete transparency about the origin and mining methods of the material.