Tesla plans to mine lithium in Nevada and phase out cobalt in its batteries

September 23, 2020

During its much anticipated Battery Day Tesla CEO announced a range of initiatives for the future of the company that is one of the leading names in the electric vehicle sector including plans for new tab-less battery technology and cleaner lithium mining practices in Nevada.

During the event that included announcement of new models of the electric vehicles (EV), the company said it will look to reduce its dependency on outside battery metal supply chains by investing in mines and processing. Analysts from Morgan Stanley said this could negatively impact the lithium price, according to S&P Global.

“Tesla announced improvements to battery technologies that are likely to support EV sales in the longer term, but also to reduce lithium usage and production costs. They also announced their own lithium mine with a new, lower-cost and more sustainable process. Lithium stocks [likely] to react negatively,” said Morgan Stanley.

Musk said that the vision is to make EVs affordable for all, citing possible ticket prices of $25,000 by 2025.

“It’s absolutely critical that we make cars that people can actually afford. Affordability is key to how we scale,” he told the Battery Day audience.

Musk added that nickel availability was important to scaling up battery manufacturing and urged miners to mine more nickel.

During the event, the company announced plans for to improve the range of the vehicles with new batteries that it will produce in-house. The new batteries are expected to lower Tesla’s cost per kilowatt hour, a key metric used to measure electric vehicles’ battery packs. The new tabless cells will removing the tab that connects the cell and what it’s powering.

Musk said Tesla will build a new cathode plant for its batteries in North America, part of its quest to reduce supply chain costs and simplify cathode production. It’s also making improvements to its process that will make cathodes 76 percent cheaper, and produce zero wastewater. The company also plans to diversify the cathodes it uses, because of low nickel supplies.

Tesla plans to eliminate the use of cobalt in its cathodes. Musk has said he wanted to eliminate it entirely in the past — even though Tesla’s existing batteries use very little. Cobalt is often mined under conditions that violate human rights, which has led to a push to find other materials to replace it.

Musk didn’t offer a timeline for when the company will stop using cobalt but said it will make its batteries significantly cheaper.

Musk said during Battery Day that there is "a massive amount of lithium in the world" and "there is enough lithium in Nevada to convert the entire USA fleet."

The CEO also said that Tesla planned to make EV batteries with cobalt-free, nickel-heavy cathodes in-house, which would make its vehicles more affordable.



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