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To promote environmentally-friendly, resource-efficient extraction of lithium, the BMW Group is investing, through its venture capital fund BMW i Ventures, in US startup Lilac Solutions. Lilac Solutions has developed and patented an ion-exchange technology that can significantly improve efficiency, costs and sustainability of extracting lithium from brine resources (earlier post).

The BMW investment was part of Lilac’s just-closed US$150-million Series B financing. New investors in the round in addition to BMW include SK Materials, Presidio Ventures (a Sumitomo Corporation Group Company), MCJ Collective, and Earthshot Ventures.

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.

Lilac will use the funds to ramp production of the company’s unique ion exchange beads, expand its teams of engineers and field operators, and deploy the technology globally.

Lilac’s lithium extraction technology is significantly faster to deploy and more effective than conventional processes and offers better financial returns. The technology allows brine to be returned back underground following lithium recovery; this minimizes environmental impact compared to existing lithium production methods based on evaporation ponds.

The BMW Group has made sustainability and resource efficiency central to the company’s strategic direction. A key aspect here 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, BMW Group Purchasing has therefore implemented additional measures is therefore 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.