Elon Musk tells entrepreneurs to get into the lithium business: ‘It’s a license to print money’

Elon Mush holds a Tesla-branded hard hat.
Elon Musk said entrepreneurs who enter the lithium business “can’t lose.”

Christophe Gateau/Getty Images

  • Elon Musk says getting into the lithium business is a “license to print money.”
  • He encouraged entrepreneurs to refine the metal, which is crucial for electric-car batteries. 
  • The price of lithium has skyrocketed, and some experts are concerned that demand will outstrip supply as electric-vehicle production accelerates. 

Elon Musk is calling for more people to get into the business of refining lithium, one of the key materials in electric-vehicle batteries. 

The Tesla CEO on Wednesday urged entrepreneurs to start lithium-refining ventures, promising that entering the business is “a license to print money.”

“It is basically like minting money right now. There’s, like, software margins in lithium processing right now,” he said. “So I would really like to encourage, once again, entrepreneurs to enter the lithium refining business. You can’t lose.”

Lithium is abundant, Musk noted. The challenging part, he said, is processing it to the point that it can be used in battery cells. “You have to refine the lithium into battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, which has to be extremely high purity,” Musk said.

The global transition to electric vehicles has driven frenzied demand for lithium, sending its price through the roof this year. Lithium prices have more than doubled since January and risen nearly 400% in the last year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. 

Some experts are concerned that there won’t be enough battery-grade lithium to go around as automakers accelerate production of electric models in the coming years. 

The scramble for the crucial metal has incentivized numerous startups to get into the lithium space and cement themselves in the EV supply chain. It’s also pushed car companies to go straight to the source and secure their own supplies through partnerships. Ford on Thursday announced deals with several companies for lithium and nickel to support its EV production. 

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