A little over a year ago, during Teslas The 2019 AGM, CEO Elon Musk, said the company could "get into the business of mining minerals used in batteries for electric vehicles."
Today, during Tesla's Battery Day, Musk confirmed that the company is officially entering the mining business.
Tesla has secured the rights to a 10,000 acre lithium clay deposit in Nevada, Musk said during the event.
The lithium mine is just part of Tesla's broader plan to build a cheaper, more efficient battery that will ultimately make it possible to bring the price of its vehicles down. This is also another example of how Tesla is bringing its supply chain closer to home.
Musk and Drew Baglino, SVP for powertrain and power technology at Tesla, explained the company's plans and progress for annual battery production of 10 to 20 terawatt hours. At the heart of this plan is a new tablets battery cell that the company unveiled at the event. But Baglino and Musk outlined other parts of this larger mission, including a new manufacturing system that is still under development, and plans to build infrastructure to support it.
The lithium mine and cathode facility, both located in North America, will be two new additions to Tesla's growing portfolio of factories and operations.
“We will start to build our own cathode facility in North America and use all North American resources for nickel and lithium. If we just localize our cathode supply chain and production, we can reduce the kilometers traveled, all 80% of the materials that end up in the cathode, ”said Baglino.
A lithium conversion plant will be built alongside the cathode facility, Baglino says, adding that the company is working on a new sulfate-free process that he claimed will cut lithium costs by 33%.
It is unclear where the cathode facility will be located. However, if the goal is to bring the supply chain closer together, it could be next to the lithium clay property that Tesla recently purchased the mining rights to.
The degradation of the reactive alkali metal has an environmental cost. But Musk claims the company found a better process. The mining of lithium traditionally requires a lot of water. Miners drill a hole in the land and pump brine to the surface, where it can then evaporate. What remains is a mixture of minerals like manganese and lithium salts. These are further filtered until the lithium can be extracted.
Musk said they had a new process that could use sodium chloride or table salt to extract the lithium from the ore.
"Nobody has done this before, to the best of their knowledge, nobody has done this," Musk said, adding that all elements of the process are reusable. "It's a very sustainable way to get lithium." He then said that the country where the mining will take place "will look pretty much the same as before".