The production of lithium-ion batteries(LIBs) has increased in capacity by almost eight fold in the past ten years due to growing demand for consumer electronics and electric-drive vehicles. The social and environmental implications of increased lithium demand is significant not only in the context of policy initiatives that are incentivizing electric vehicle adoption, but also because electric vehicle adoption is part of the vision of sustainability transitions that are being put forth in a variety of contexts. Any evidence that suggests that the externalities of the technology uptake are not being addressed would directly counter the intent of such initiatives. For LIBs to be fully sustainable, it is imperative that impacts along life cycle stages be adequately addressed, including lithium mineral extraction. This study investigates how the scope and focus of research in this area are changing and what drives their evolution. Based on a bibliometric analysis, we evaluate the state of research on the issues of lithium mineral extraction, use, and their impacts. The article identifies research hotspots and emerging research agendas by mapping the evolution of research focus and themes. Our analysis finds that research on the socio-environmental impacts of lithium extraction at local level has been very limited. We discuss some research directions to address the knowledge gaps in terms of specific research topics, methodologies, and broader system perspectives.
Read the article in Environmental Research Letters.