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Tesla’s zero-cobalt battery goes beyond price parity, it’s a strike to gas cars’ jugular

Tesla Gigafactory 1, where Model 3 battery cells are produced. (Photo: Tesla)

It is no secret that Tesla is pursuing a million-mile battery. This battery will be so advanced, it would be able to stand the most stressful conditions for electric vehicles without compromising its quality and longevity; and when used for energy storage devices, it could last decades with regular use. If recent reports are any indication, it appears that Tesla’s million-mile battery could very well be the factor that would allow sustainable transportation to go for fossil fuels’ jugular. 

One key factor that is still blocking the electric vehicle movement is the price of batteries. For the longest time, it has been widely speculated that reducing battery production costs to $100/kWh is the key to EVs reaching price parity with their petrol-powered counterparts. A recent report from Reuters, citing individuals familiar with Tesla’s battery efforts, has noted that the cost of Tesla’s batteries could fall even lower than $100/kWh. 

Tesla is reportedly poised to start using batteries that it developed with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) in the near future, with some reports speculating that the new cells could be rolled out to the Made-in-China Model 3 later this year. This battery, which will be cobalt-free, is reportedly a solid step towards a full rollout of Tesla’s million-mile battery. These batteries are still set to be improved as well, with the cells’ energy density and storage capacity being optimized over time. 

Inside Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai’s battery pack facility. (Credit: Tesla)

Estimates indicate that CATL’s cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate battery packs for Tesla have fallen to $80/kWh, with the cost of the battery cells themselves dropping to about $60/kWh. Provided that these estimates are accurate, Tesla’s electric cars will not only be able to meet the $100/kWh target and meet price parity with gas powered cars, the company’s vehicles could actually become cheaper than their petrol-powered counterparts in the future. 

Battery expert Shirley Meng, a professor at the University of California San Diego, noted that these costs, even for more expensive NMC cells, would drop even further when battery recycling comes into the picture. Fortunately for Tesla, there are signs that a serious effort to recycle batteries is underway. Reports indicate that the electric car maker is working steadily to recycle and recover key materials in its batteries, such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium. 

The Tesla Model Y crossover. (Credit: Edmunds/Twitter)

Tesla’s efforts at recycling its batteries have been known for some time, considering the company’s focus on sustainability. These efforts are being pushed through Redwood Materials, a firm that’s focused on recovering vital battery components. Interestingly enough, Redwood Materials is headed by JB Straubel, a co-founder and longtime Chief Technology Officer of Tesla. Straubel is an authority in batteries, as evidenced by the fact that Elon Musk was already sponsoring his battery research even before both of them joined Tesla. 

If Tesla can master battery recycling, and if it can reduce its battery costs to $80/kWh and below, the company’s electric vehicles could become even more competitive in the auto market. As it is, Teslas are still quite expensive compared to their gas-powered counterparts due to their batteries’ costs, and yet, some of the company’s vehicles like the Model 3 are already dominating established gas-powered cars like the BMW M3 on the market. One can only imagine how far Tesla could go with a vehicle like the Model Y, which caters to the hyper-popular crossover market, and a million-mile battery whose costs are down to less than $100/kWh. 

With Teslas reaching or even exceeding price parity with gas powered rivals, there will be very little incentive for car buyers to purchase petrol-powered cars over electric vehicles. Premium EVs, after all, are cheaper to run, more powerful, and far cleaner. The million-mile battery may only be one of the things that Tesla is working on to optimize its vehicles, but it goes a long way towards the company’s fight for sustainability. 

Tesla’s zero-cobalt battery goes beyond price parity, it’s a strike to gas cars’ jugular
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