Tesla considers strategic deal with cobalt supplier to secure China battery cell production

Tesla Gigafactory 3. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla is reportedly negotiating a long-term deal with a large Swiss-based Cobalt miner to begin supplying its Shanghai Gigafactory with raw materials for the production of lithium-ion battery cells.

Switzerland mining company Glencore and Tesla have been in talks of a deal recently that would supply Gigafactory 3 with one of the essential metals in its vehicle’s batteries. No final agreement has been signed according to reports from Bloomberg.

Glencore has been in talks with multiple car manufacturers as they recently signed a deal with BMW to supply some of its production plants with cobalt from its mine in Australia. They also came to an agreement on a six-year contract with Korean battery manufacturer SK Innovation.

Currently, Gigafactory 3 is mass-producing the Tesla Model 3 at a rate of 3,000 vehicles per week and uses battery cells supplied by LG Chem. The deal with the South Korean electronics giant came to fruition in August 2019 after Tesla was unable to finalize an agreement with long-standing Gigafactory 1 partner, Panasonic, for the supply of cells to its Shanghai factory.

This is not the first time the company has been in talks with a precious metal mining company in hopes of locking up materials to secure its long-term growth strategies. The electric maker was looking to strike a deal with Brazilian lithium miner Sigma in September 2019.

After acquiring California-based Maxwell Technologies and Candian-based Hibar Systems in 2019, Tesla is presumably looking to increase the longevity and effectiveness of its batteries. Maxwell has developed dry electrode technologies that could store large amounts of electrical charge without losing energy. Before Tesla bought Hibar, the company was also working toward producing high-efficiency Li-Ion battery cells.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long desired a million-mile capable battery pack for the company’s vehicles. After acquiring the knowledge of Dalhousie University Professor Jeff Dahn to help develop the system, a team of researchers at the Nova Scotia college believe it is not far out of reach.

Perhaps developing batteries on its own by utilizing the expertise gained from both Maxwell and Hibar, along with Jeff Dahn’s researchers could lead to increased battery technologies and performance. Tesla’s efforts to gain contracts with metal miners would lower battery production costs in the long run as the company would be directly developing battery systems in-house.

Joey Klender: Joey has been a journalist covering electric mobility at TESLARATI since August 2019. In his time at TESLARATI, Joey has broken several big stories, including the first images of the Tesla Model S Plaid, the imminent release of the 4680 Model Y through EPA certification, and several expansions to the Lucid AMP-1 factory in Arizona, to name a few. His stories have been featured in several publications, including Yahoo! Finance, Fox News, CNET, and Seeking Alpha. In his spare time, Joey is playing golf, watching MMA, or cheering on any of his favorite sports teams, including the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles, Miami Heat, Washington Capitals, and Penn State Nittany Lions. You can get in touch with joey at joey@teslarati.com. He is also on Twitter @KlenderJoey.
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