Musk sees refining as the lithium problem, so Tesla plans to begin doing it

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Tesla Inc. is more focused on refining lithium than on mining the battery metal, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said, as the EV giant plans to begin refining production within a year.

The “limiting factor” is refining lithium, not actually finding it, as no country has a monopoly on deposits, Musk said Wednesday during the electric vehicle giant’s investor day.

Tesla has broken ground on a proposed lithium refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, and aims to start output within a year, Drew Baglino, senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering, said at the event. The EV giant wants to process lithium concentrates into battery-grade lithium chemicals at the Texas refinery.

The company hasn’t responded to reports it’s been mulling a takeover of miner Sigma Lithium Corp. amid rampant demand for the material crucial to powering EVs.

Automakers have aggressively pushed into mining to lock in supply for batteries as electric-vehicle sales rise. Stellantis NV took a 14% stake in a McEwen Mining Inc. copper subsidiary, and General Motors Co. is said to be vying for a stake in Vale SA’s base metals unit. In January, GM struck a $650 million pact with Lithium Americas Corp. to develop a US lithium deposit.

As for nickel — another key ingredient in EV batteries — Musk said it’s only needed for “aircraft, long-range cars or trucks.” 

“The vast majority of heavy lifting” of EV batteries will be iron-based batteries, and there’s plenty of iron in the world, he said.

 

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