Tesla Giga 3 Shanghai may use no cobalt batteries from CATL for its electric vehicle production, according to a recent report from Reuters. The EV automaker is reportedly in talks with the China-based battery manufacturer for its cobalt-free batteries. If Tesla is successful with its CATL negotiations, it could significantly reduce the price of its batteries. With this in mind, all-electric vehicles’ price parity with ICE cars may be in reach.
CATL makes lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFP) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries, reported GreenTechMedia. Of the two CATL batteries, LFP has been labeled cobalt-free. So, Tesla may be in talks with the Chinese battery supplier for its LFP batteries.
Tesla has been openly vocal about its desire to reduce cobalt in its batteries. The transition metal can be expensive to use in batteries, as evident by its title as “the blood diamond of batteries.” Cobalt is also notoriously controversial, with human rights organizations pointing to questionable mining practices in cobalt mines in places such as Congo.
“Being on a path to reduce cobalt usage, for instance, has been something we’ve been working on for literally several years now. And this has been extremely helpful in the overall cost per kilowatt hour, especially with recent commodity price movements,” former CTO JB Straubel said during Tesla's Q1 2018 Earnings Call.
The EV automaker has been working on reducing cobalt in its batteries since the original Roadster. In Tesla's Q1 2018 Update Letter, the electric car maker discussed how it intended to depart from cobalt usage in its EV batteries.
We use less than 3% cobalt in our batteries & will use none in next gen— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 13, 2018
“Cells used in Model 3 are the highest energy density cells used in any electric vehicle. We have achieved this by significantly reducing cobalt content per battery pack while increasing nickel content and still maintaining superior thermal stability. The cobalt content of our Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum cathode chemistry is already lower than next-generation cathodes that will be made by other cell producers with a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt ratio of 8:1:1,” Tesla wrote.
According to a 2018 Benchmark Mineral Intelligence study, Tesla reduced cobalt consumption by an average of 59% per vehicle between the initial release of the Roadster and first-generation Model S. Tesla reduced its cobalt consumption further between the time it released the first-generation Model S and Model 3 from 11 kg cobalt per car to 4.5 kg per vehicle, respectively.
By 2019, findings from German business newspaper Wirtschaftswoche indicate that Tesla's batteries in the Model 3 contained 75% less cobalt than the cells used by Volkswagen in its first all-electric car, the ID.3. Since then, Tesla has continued to pursue more battery optimizations.
Late last month, Tesla’s partnership with CATL was confirmed. On February 3, the China-based battery manufacturer officially announced that it signed a two-year agreement with Tesla, valid from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022. CATL has become the world’s largest supplier of batteries for electric vehicles in 2018 when it raked in $512 million in profit. If Reuters' recent report proves accurate, CATL may end up playing a vital role in EVs reaching price parity with their petrol-powered counterparts.
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