Tesla Inc is more focused on refining lithium than mining the battery metal, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said, as the EV giant plans to ramp up refining production within a year.
The “limiting factor” is refining lithium, not actually finding it, because no country has a monopoly on the deposits, Musk said during the electric vehicle giant’s investor day on Wednesday.
Tesla has broken ground on a proposed lithium refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, and aims to start production within a year, Drew Baglino, senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering, said at the event. The EV giant wants to process lithium at a Texas refinery into battery-grade lithium chemicals.
The company has not responded to reports that it is considering an acquisition of miner Sigma Lithium Corp amid high demand for the critical material to power EVs.
Automakers have aggressively pushed into mining to lock in battery supplies as electric-vehicle sales surge. Stellantis NV acquired McEwen Mining Inc. Copper subsidiary, and it is said that General Motors Co. Vale is competing for a stake in SA’s base metals unit. In January, GM entered into a $650 million agreement with Lithium Americas Corp. to develop US lithium deposits.
As for nickel – another key component in EV batteries – Musk said it is only needed for “aircraft, long-range cars or trucks”.
The “heavy lifting” of EV batteries will be iron-based batteries, he said, and there is plenty of iron in the world.