Tesla has revealed at its Tesla Battery Day that the company is planning to break into the battery metals mining business.
Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk and manufacturing industry executive Drew Baglino said that the company had acquired the rights to a 10,000 acre lithium clay deposit in Nevada.
They also disclosed that Tesla intended to build its own cathode plant and lithium conversion facility.
This is part of Tesla’s plan to be self-sufficient, significantly reducing costs and the hundreds of kilometres that need to be travelled before materials used in electric vehicles (EVs) manufacturing can reach the company.
“We’re going to go and start building our own cathode facility in North America, leveraging all of the North American resources that exist for nickel and lithium,” Baglino said.
“Just doing that and localising our cathode supply chain and production we can reduce the miles travelled by all of the materials that end up in the cathode by 80 per cent, which is huge for cost.
“This process enables simpler mining and simpler recycling.”
Traditionally, lithium and nickel raw materials are mined and then converted into a metal sulphate before chemicals and water are added to them to create the final cathode product.
This creates a large amount of wastewater and waste by-products, something Tesla aims to eliminate with its lithium cathode plant and facility.
“The nature of the mining is very environmentally sensitive in that we take a chunk of dirt, remove the lithium and put the chunk of dirt back where it was and it looks the same as before,” he said.
“We have found that we can actually use table salt (sodium chloride) to extract the lithium from the ore.
“Nobody has done this before to our knowledge and it’s a very sustainable way of obtaining lithium, all of the elements are reusable.”
Musk said there was already enough lithium in Nevada alone to convert every car in the United States to EVs.
“There is a massive amount of (lithium) everywhere,” he said.
“There is enough lithium in the United States to convert the entire United States fleet, the 300 million vehicles to lithium, using only lithium that is available in the United States that we already know exists.”