The Media Lied To You About Lithium Too

Alex Koyfman

Written By Alex Koyfman

Posted February 21, 2024

Dear Reader,

900 tons of lithium batteries went up in flames in Southern France earlier this week in what was the biggest lithium-fed conflagration so far this year. 

france lithium fire

The story made headlines across all the major media outlets generating waves of fear and panic across the world, because let’s face it… these batteries are everywhere. 

You probably have one in your pocket right now, or are holding one in your hand as you read this. 

Inside your own home, there are probably half a dozen or more of these batteries powering your laptops, bluetooth speakers, phones, tablets, cameras, etc… And each of them is just another fire waiting to happen. 

That’s the story you’ve been fed, anyway. 

Several facts are always omitted from articles covering these fires, not the least of which is that the incident rate of fire is actually close to zero

Let’s break down the numbers.

This Is How They Lie To You

As of this year, there are over 22 billion wireless devices in operation across the world. 

That’s almost 3 devices for every man, woman and child. 

Using that very raw ratio (it’s likely far greater in any major Western urban area), there are between 25 and 30 million such devices in use in New York City alone. 

Last year, NYC tallied a record 268 lithium battery fires — or about 5 per week. 

Even when using the low estimates of total batteries in operation in the city, that’s one fire for every 93,280 batteries. 

Furthermore, most of these fires are linked to e-bikes, and more specifically, e-bikes using refurbished batteries. So the chances that your phone is going to burn your house down falls by at least another order of magnitude. 

Now, let’s compare this catastrophic failure rate to the failure rate of another widely used technology — automobiles. 

Why Are Deadly Road Accidents So Much Less Scary Than Lithium Fires?

Last year, over 43,000 Americans lost their lives in automotive collisions (down slightly from 2022). Divide the total number of road-going vehicles by this number and you get about 1 fatality per 6,500 vehicles on the road. 

traffic deaths

Mind you, those are fatalities — the most severe outcome of any road-going catastrophe. 

Remove the fatality element and the ratio is even more stark. 

In 2021, there were precisely 6,102,936 police-reported accidents nationwide — or about 1 for every 43 vehicles on the road

Now, I know you’re probably thinking that this comparison is a bit of a logical stretch, but is it really?

When discussing catastrophic failure rates of popular consumer products to determine if media attention is equally distributed, the comparison works quite well. 

Does it matter that one is usually a technical failure and the other is user-error generated? Not particularly. Neither car nor wireless device can operate without the human user. That makes every catastrophe a failure of a system, not just a piece of technology.

As systems go, despite being at least 4 times more numerous, lithium-battery powered devices and their human users are far, far less dangerous than cars and their drivers.

Going back to NYC, where lithium fires killed 18 and injured 150 last year, the toll for road-going vehicles for that same year is over 200 dead and more than 34,000 injured. 

Which begs the question… Are lithium-ion batteries really that dangerous as far as consumer products go?

The Media Doesn’t Exist To Inform… It Exists To Drive Traffic

The answer, of course, is no. If lithium fires were nearly as frequent as the media makes them out to be, scores of people would be dying each and every day. 

Airliners would be falling from the sky, set alight by these pocket-sized incendiary devices. 

But the reality is, lithium-ion batteries, even old and refurbished ones, very rarely fail on this level. 

The difference between cars and smart phones is that for decades we’ve been conditioned to accept the hazards of driving and traveling. 

When catastrophes happen, we offer thoughts and prayers, thank god it wasn’t us and move on. 

We’re used to it, which means we’re no longer shocked when it happens. That also means the media has no reason to report anything but the worst of the worst of these incidents. 

Nevertheless, fire risk is one of the primary reasons why the tech industry is scrambling right now to find a better and safer solution to the problem of portable energy storage. 

A Fun Fact About Solid-State

Solid-state batteries are currently the most popular alternative, and are expected to start seeing commercialization in the EV world within a few years. 

Since lithium-ion battery fires are almost always the result of failure within the liquid electrolyte, it’s clear that the design philosophy behind lithium-ion’s successor is guided by (mostly overblown) safety concerns. 

As of late last year, the solid-state battery has become the media’s darling in the race to replace the current standard, but there’s one small fact that the same media tends to leave out. 

Solid-state batteries also use lithium in their electrodes. 

Once perfected, these next-gen batteries will be more energy-dense, longer-lasting, and quicker-charging. But the lithium component is going nowhere. 

Which brings me to the ultimate point. 

Regardless of the bad press lithium has been getting, we’re not going to be off the lithium standard for a long time. 

The Bubble Is Behind Us… Demand Is Rising… Supply is Falling

And lithium demand, despite temporary corrections in the market or missed EV sales projections, will continue to rise.

That makes right now the best time ever to invest in the supply. 

Lithium’s bubble has burst. Prices are irrationally low. Supply is dwindling. Demand, pushed by electric cars, consumer tech and distributed energy storage systems, is rising. 

Now, here is where the opportunity emerges.

Last summer, the biggest lithium discovery in history was made on the Nevada/Oregon border. 

Locked inside an ancient remnant from the eruption at the Yellowstone super volcano, this discovery, which could contain as much as 40 million tons, is big enough to completely change the global balance of power — which right now rests firmly in the hands of a very greedy, and very hostile Chinese Communist Party. 

But like all things lithium these days, the stock behind this discovery is trading low, largely avoided by skittish speculators. 

Don’t be the dumb money. Learn everything there is to know about this discovery, and what it could mean for the EV and consumer tech sectors

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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