Tesla expands into lithium business
Metal Tech News - May 10, 2023
Last updated 6/8/2023 at 11:03am
Breaks ground on refinery in Texas with capacity to supply lithium for roughly 1 million Tesla EVs per year.
Moving another link up the electric vehicles supply chain, Tesla Inc. has broken ground on a $375 million lithium refinery just outside of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Slated for completion by 2025, the South Texas refinery is forecast to produce enough battery-grade lithium hydroxide to build about 1 million Tesla EVs per year.
During a May 8 groundbreaking ceremony, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott thanked Tesla for choosing the Corpus Christi suburb of Robstown as the locale for a refinery that expands the iconic EV manufacturer's growing presence in the Lone Star State.
Much of the battery-grade lithium produced at the new refinery will be shipped to Tesla's Gigafactory Texas, a 10-million-square-foot facility that produces batteries, and is the manufacturing hub for Model Y and the future Cybertruck.
"Texas will continue to be a hub of innovation, leading the way on the future of technology," said Abbott.
The refinery will initially process spodumene, a mineral that is a hardrock source of lithium but has been designed for multiple feedstocks such as recycled batteries, manufacturing scrap, and lithium brine.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that the electric automaker does not have any plans to get into the lithium mining business.
"We intend to continue to use suppliers of lithium, so it's not that Tesla will do all of it," he said.
Tesla has a deal to buy 125,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate over the first three years of operations at the Texas refinery from Piedmont Lithium Ltd., an Australian mining company with lithium mine projects in North Carolina and Quebec.
The concentrate ordered by Tesla was originally slated to be delivered from Piedmont's North Carolina mine project but is now expected to be shipped from the North American Lithium project in Quebec. Spodumene concentrates from this Canadian operation can be shipped via rail and ocean cargo to Tesla's new lithium refinery.
Ready access to North America's rail system and ocean shipping via the Gulf of Mexico is among the reasons Tesla selected the Corpus Christi area for its refinery.
The south Texas area also has a skilled workforce from the petroleum sector that is a good fit for the Tesla Lithium refinery.
Gov. Abbott sees the refinery outside of Corpus Christi and the Tesla Gigafactory near Austin as vanguards of Texas' shift from being an iconic supplier of the oil that fueled the 20th century to the renewable energy powering the 21st century.
"The proliferation of automobiles fundamentally transformed our society in the twentieth century, and today, we are on the cusp of another paradigm shift as mankind transitions to sustainable energy," the Texas governor penned in a proclamation presented to Musk during the groundbreaking ceremony.
"The new Tesla lithium refinery has created many high-quality jobs, and in due course, it will power the future in the most literal sense," he added. "This groundbreaking ceremony signals the dawning of a new era for Tesla, for customers the world over, and for the entirety of the Lone Star State."