Mineral sources impacts from the Tesla Gigafactory

As we’ve established over the last couple posts, Tesla Motors urgently requires a doubling of the worlds lithium-ion battery production capacity.  To do so, the company has turned to Panasonic (the agreement isn’t finalized) to build a huge battery factory – somewhere.  At the same time, Tesla (and Panasonic) have to turn to raw materials suppliers to drastically increase production of the components that go into battery production.

I don’t know off-hand what those components are, but the people at mining.com do, and they published an interesting piece giving some details.  What follows is a summary.

Flake Graphite:  Tesla’s plans would require as much as 126,000 tonnes per year of flake graphite.  This is a 152% increase over the current demand for flake graphite from battery makers.

China is the leading producer of flake graphite.

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Lithium: While we call them lithium-ion batteries, lithium is only one component in the chemical stew.  Further, pure lithium is not used, because pure lithium metal is explosive, and we want electric cars whose batteries don’t explode.  Ahem, Tesla.  Anyway, that means the lithium in a lithium-ion battery is ionically bound to other materials, hence the name lithium-ion.

Demand should increase by 25,000 tonnes per year, for a 50% increase over current production.

China is the leading producer of lithium.

Cobalt: This metal is used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.  Demand should increase by 17% or 7,000 tonnes per year.

The leading producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo.  That gives us a sad story, because the cobalt is produced under humanitarially bad conditions.  The country has wars going on.  There are no other large producers of cobalt, but several countries producing small amounts.

Tesla says that none of its cobalt comes from DR Congo.

Other materials include nickel, bauxite (aluminum) and copper.  Tesla does not use any rare earth metals in its cars, because the motors do not have permanent magnets.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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