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Tesla's Lithium Mining Plan in Nevada faces obstacles to production
Sep 25,2020 09:02CST
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SMM: it is reported that Tesla plans to produce lithium for electric car batteries near his Nevada superfactory, but the plan faces severe challenges from the beginning, including cumbersome licensing procedures, uncertain water collection channels, and unverified production methods.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Elon Musk) told shareholders on September 22nd that Tesla had won the right to use 10, 000 acres of land in Nevada and that his goal was to extract lithium from clay deposits through a process developed internally by the company.

The move will make Tesla the first commercial company in the world to produce white metals from clay. Previously, the main sources of lithium were salt water, which is common in South America, and spodumene hard rock, which is common in Australia.

Tesla plans to mix clay with salt in Nevada and then add water. The company says this will trigger a reaction in which salt and lithium are leached together and lithium is extracted from it. The remaining clay will be put back into the land to reduce the damage to the environment.

However, Tesla's plan met with resistance immediately after its release, with critics saying Musk's plan was too simple and ignored the details. "Tesla's plan has caused more problems than it has solved," said Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant. Do we have to believe Elon Musk that the cost will be lower than the existing lithium project? " Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several lithium clay projects are already under development in Nevada, including one from Lithium Americas, which has been applying for federal approval for 10 years, and another from ioneer.

Lithium Americas says their production process includes acid leaching and believes they can successfully extract lithium from clay. Tesla said that their process would not involve acid leaching, and this statement raised further questions. "if it is possible to produce large amounts of lithium from clay that can be used in batteries, why has no one done it before?" Berry said.

If Tesla wants to be approved to start a lithium production project, he will need to submit a large number of applications, a process that could take years. "Lithium mining is a very challenging thing," said Pedro Palandrani of Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF. If Tesla really wants to mine independently, they may have to wait 4-5 years before they can really start lithium production. "

Tesla's plan may also require a lot of water, leading them to compete with local ranchers for the right to use groundwater, which is not rich in Nevada.

In addition, some battery experts said that although the advanced battery design and new manufacturing processes introduced by Musk at Battery Day are very promising, they question when the new designs and processes will be implemented. In addition, experts also question how much they can play in reducing overall costs.

On battery day, Tesla launched 4680 batteries, which can store more energy and are less difficult to produce. Tesla's goal is to halve battery costs and increase production nearly a hundredfold by 2030.

Gene Berdichevsky, CEO and co-founder of battery material manufacturer Sila Nanotechnologies and former Tesla battery system architect, said: "the most specific, visible, and perhaps the most influential thing put forward by Tesla on this battery day is the latest cell design. This is a good design that reduces costs at the cell manufacturing level. The most difficult thing is not to produce the battery, but whether it can be produced on a large scale. "

Shirley Meng, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, said: "most of the things Musk announced were to be expected, such as the shape of the 4680 battery, the new design, the silicon anode, the variety of cathode options. What surprised me was the cathode manufacturing process and the new aluminum-based alloy. "

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