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Mona El Khafif

Associate Professor, Architecture and Urban + Environmental Planning; Graduate Urban Design Program Director


Gary Koenig

Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering UVA

Cathy Zoi

Chief Executive Officer & Director EVgo Fast Charging

EV Advisor, and Advocate

Claire Weisz

Principal in Charge, WXY Studio NY, TOR, DC

Lithium is omnipresent in consumer electronics and lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles. It provides storage to balance intermittent renewable power sources, such as wind and solar energy. In our transition toward a more climate-resilient planet, increased lithium consumption is a new, seemingly accepted reality if we want to realize decarbonization goals. With demands increasing worldwide, this rare earth metal is an enabler for a “green new future” and urban transformation processes by integrating intelligent urban technologies and enhanced mobile storage capacity. Besides using lithium-ion batteries in cellphones, computers, and e-bikes, the demand to serve massive solar and wind farms or power electric vehicles is driving a global rush for lithium.

To quantify this phenomenon, by 2030, 26 million electric cars will circulate only in the U.S., requiring ten times the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations nowadays. Observing the growing scale of solar and wind farms is enough to grasp the fierce competition among renewable energy providers. America’s largest solar farm in California, Solar Star, covers more than 13 square kilometers—an area four times the size of Central Park—with 1.7 million solar panels that power about 255,000 homes. These projected lithium needs and demands pose relevant questions regarding batteries’ life cycles and the need to accelerate and innovate their current recycling capacities. 

At the same time, the call for a just transition offers the opportunity to rethink current urban and rural typologies, foster strategic innovations, and steward more resilient and collaborative lifestyles. How can area-wide installations of utility-scale solar megafarms improve land use, embrace land conservation practices, and enhance biodiversity? Can EV charging stations be reimagined as public spaces and social infrastructures in rural and urban settings? Can we coproduce new typologies that serve multiple purposes and stakeholders—human and nonhuman alike—as a new green commons?

Unlike hazardous gas stations or oil refineries, electric charging points and solar farms can be reimagined as hybrid public places, incorporating diverse programs and activating promising social and economic alliances. 

Addressing climate change through the lens of lithium offers an opportunity to improve urban landscapes and environments emerging from more conscious consumption and recycling patterns. This session brings together planners, urban designers, architects, and scientists, seeking to improve our urban environments for a sustainable future.






Coming Soon

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