Recent reports from China have suggested that Tesla battery partner Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd. (CATL) is poised to ramp and provide the electric car maker with its cells in the second half of 2020. This update could become a valuable step towards the company’s localization of its supply chain, while opening the doors to the release of electric vehicles with batteries that have zero cobalt content.
A localized supply chain could very well be one of Tesla China’s key advantages in the country’s auto market. With more parts of the locally-made Model 3 being sourced from within the country, Tesla would be able to price the all-electric sedan in a much more competitive manner.
Estimates indicate that with a fully-localized supply chain, the Standard Range Plus Model 3 would only cost about RMB180,000 (about $25,500) to manufacture. Such a reduction in production costs could allow Tesla to lower the price of the locally-made Model 3 further. This bodes well for Tesla China, considering that the company has already been able to optimize the Model 3’s starting price to less than RMB300,000 to qualify for government incentives.
China is the world’s auto market, and it is also home to the world’s biggest electric car segment. This means that the country already has an established set of players in the EV market, and the competition among local automakers is intense. Tesla, being the only foreign carmaker that has been allowed to establish its own factory in China, will need to go blow-by-blow with local EV producers to compete well in the country.
A good way for Tesla to accomplish this is to price its vehicles as aggressively as possible. Prior to the arrival of the Made in China Model 3, Teslas were widely considered as expensive electric vehicles that were intended for a niche market. The locally-made Model 3 changed this, as it allowed Tesla to reach a larger demographic. With every part of the vehicle’s production that is localized, the Made in China Model 3 becomes more competitive.
It’s not all about the Model 3’s price too. Reports have previously suggested that CATL will be providing Tesla China with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which are cobalt-free. These batteries are reportedly cheaper by “double-digit” percent compared to the existing cells used in the company’s vehicles, and are more environmentally-friendly due to their zero cobalt content. If CATL’s upcoming battery ramp involves LFP cells for Tesla China, the locally-made Model 3 will likely become an even more compelling vehicle for local customers in the near future.