American electric vehicle maker Tesla has shown some remarkable foresight as it reportedly secured an undisclosed nickel supply deal with Brazilian mining firm Vale. Nickel is an essential component for the batteries of the company’s flagship vehicles, such as the Model S and the Model X.
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nickel was already experiencing a rise in cost. But following Ukraine’s invasion, the price of the material saw an even more drastic rise. In early March, nickel prices surged above $100,000 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, prompting a trading halt.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Tesla has been signing deals with several nickel suppliers since 2021. Among these is Brazilian miner Vale, which signed a multi-year supply deal with the American electric vehicle maker. While the agreement between Tesla and Vale is yet to be announced, the publication’s sources noted that the deal covers nickel from Canada.
Since Russia is one of the world’s most prolific producers of nickel, potential sanctions placed on the country due to its invasion of Ukraine could result in nickel supply being limited to Western suppliers and manufacturers. Tesla has been largely able to avoid these challenges due to its use of non-nickel batteries for its entry-level cars, as well as its own deals with nickel suppliers across the globe.
Tesla has spent a considerable amount of its resources over the years to push its battery tech further, but it has also put in a lot of work in developing its own cells. CEO Elon Musk has highlighted the importance of vertical integration for Tesla’s operations, and this is true for the company’s battery projects in sites like Gigafactory Nevada and in its Kato Road facilities in California, which hosts the pilot line of the company’s 4680 cells.
But while Tesla has taken notable steps to ensure that it is not as affected by the rising costs of battery components as other automakers, the company noted in the past that it needs as much materials as suppliers could provide. Elon Musk, for example, urged nickel miners two years ago to mine more of the component. Musk promised nickel suppliers a “giant contract” if they could mine the material efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.
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