Tesla could find itself neighbours with one of the largest concentrated supplies of lithium carbonate in the world less than a decade from now.
Just north of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, a proposal to build a massive mine capable of growing the world’s lithium carbonate supply by more than 20% by 2026.
Known as Lithium Americas, the company behind the study has conservatively estimated that it could ramp up annual lithium carbonate output to 60,000 tpa.
To sustain Teslas Gigafactory-1’s 35 GWh 2018 production goal, that single factory alone could require upto 85,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually to sustain its battery production operations alone. Tesla’s demands this year could consume 25-30% of the entire global lithium carbonate supply.
Gigafactory 1 production is expected to ramp upto 150 GWh annually by 2020.
That is for a single Gigafactory. Tesla plans to construct several more Gigafactorys in China, Europe, and elsewhere.
Currently, Tianqi Lithium (Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu Province), is the world’s leading battery-grade lithium carbonate manufacturing plant. The plant has a design capacity of 17,000 tpa of lithium carbonate.
Put simply, Tesla is going to need every ounce of lithium supply they can get their hands on.
Tesla, however, is already hard at work attempting to secure a strong and satisfactory supply of lithium and other rare earth metals and materials required to produce premium-grade Li-on batteries.
Tesla already has agreements to buy lithium from Bacanora’s Sonora Lithium prospect – Australian Kidman Resources Kwinana Lithium processing plant, and also plans to invest directly in SQM to strengthen access to lithium in Chile.
Experts in forecasting lithium supply (such as Benchmark Minerals) see supply/demand ratios of Li largely in deficit for the next several years, with the ratio only beginning to balance sometime around 2025.