© Wikimedia Commons General | May 08, 2019
Tesla: shortage of EV battery minerals on the horizon
Citing under-investment in the mining sector, Tesla Inc. said last week that it expects global shortages of various electric-vehicle battery minerals down the road, according to two sources and reported by Reuters.
The statement was made by Tesla Global Supply Manager, Battery Metals, Sarah Maryssael, in a closed-door Washington conference of miners, regulators and lawmakers last week, according to the sources. Tesla, a major minerals consumer, has rarely talked publicly about its views on the metals industry. Copper, nickel, lithium and related minerals are key components used to make electric-vehicle batteries and other parts. According to a Tesla spokesman, the comments were industry-specific and referring to the long-term supply challenges that may occur with regards to these metals, Reuters reports. The copper industry has suffered from years of underinvestment, and it is now working feverishly to develop new mines and bring fresh supply online as the electrification trend envelops the global economy. Freeport-McMoRan Inc, the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, is expanding in the United States and Indonesia. Electric cars use twice as much copper as internal combustion engines. And smart-home systems, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Nest thermostat and Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant, are on track to consume about 1.5 million tons of copper by 2030, up from 38,000 tons today, according to data from consultancy BSRIA. Hence, Tesla’s concerns. According to Reuters’ sources, in her statement during the closed-door conference hosted by commodity pricing tracker Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, Maryssael added that Tesla will continue to focus on nickel, part of a plan by CEO Elon Musk to use less cobalt in battery cathodes. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, where cobalt is mostly mined, uses child labor as well as certain undesirable extraction techniques, making its use highly frowned upon across the battery industry, especially with Musk. Maryssael also told the conference there is “huge potential” to partner with mines in Australia or the United States, according to the sources. Last year, Australia signed a preliminary deal with the U.S. to support joint research and development of minerals deemed critical to the U.S. economy. The conference is reported to have been attended by more than 100 people and featured speakers from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Energy, as well as Standard Lithium Ltd., ioneer Ltd., and other companies working to develop U.S. lithium mines.