Industry sources have suggested that LG Chem, a company reportedly tapped by Tesla as one of its battery suppliers for its Shanghai-based factory, has begun the mass production of 2170 cells for the Model 3 in its Nanjing factory.
According to South Korean tech publication THEELEC, LG Chem is producing NCM 811 battery cells for the electric car maker, which features a nickel proportion of 80% or more. Prior to its reported contract with Tesla, LG Chem has used its NCM 811 cells for electric buses. The Model 3 will then be the first sedan that will use these specific, LG-made cells.
The industry sources claimed that LG Chem was able to convince Tesla to opt for its NCM 811 batteries under the premise that the cells will likely maximize the range of the Model 3. This is key to Tesla’s Model 3 production activities in Gigafactory 3, as the site is intended to produce only the affordable versions of the electric sedan. If Tesla can reassure China’s EV market that its Made-in-China Model 3 has industry-leading range, the vehicle will likely receive a good amount of demand from the country’s mainstream car-buying public.
With Tesla as a customer for its Nanjing based plant, LG Chem has reportedly begun preparing its facilities to meet the electric car maker’s demand. LG Chem’s Nanjing plant is already operating at high levels, and earlier this year, the South Korean conglomerate announced that it will be investing 1.2 trillion won ($1 billion) to expand the facility’s production capabilities even more. But this is not all, as more expansion is expected as per Tesla’s request.
Interestingly, the industry sources quoted by the South Korean tech publication mentioned that LG Chem is also looking to mass-produce NCMA batteries for electric vehicles starting in 2022. These upcoming cells will reportedly feature an even higher nickel content.
Reports of LG Chem’s partnership with Tesla initially emerged last August when Bloomberg revealed that the battery maker and the electric car company were in discussions for a potential working partnership. Provided that the recent reports from South Korea are accurate, the two companies’ collaboration appears to have been secured, and both companies appear to be working together to start Model 3 production in the Gigafactory 3 site.
LG Chem’s Nanjing battery plant is strategically located. The facility is situated about 200 miles west of Shanghai, which would make transporting the cells to the Gigafactory 3 complex at the Lingang Industrial Zone a rather simple task. For one, the distance between the two China-based facilities is far shorter than the distance between Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, which produces 2170 cells for the Model 3, and the company’s Fremont factory, which assembles the vehicle.
Reports from China have suggested that Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 will not be exclusively supplied by LG Chem. Apart from the South Korean battery maker, Tesla is reportedly tapping into the services of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL) for a potential supply deal. So far, neither Tesla nor CATL have confirmed that a battery partnership has been established for Gigafactory 3’s operations.