Leading electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla appears to be well on its way towards lithium self-sufficiency as it formally broke ground for its own lithium refinery in Texas on Monday, May 8th.
The said refinery is expected to produce enough processed lithium to build around a million EVs come 2025, essentially making it North America’s largest lithium processing facility.
According to Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk, the Texas refinery essentially expands the company’s reach beyond the mere production of EVs and into the more intensive field of lithium production, specifically refining, and processing. Musk explained that doing so was a necessary step toward achieving the company’s lofty sales targets.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Musk informed the audience that the steady availability of battery-grade lithium will be a key choke point in the development of EV technology in the next few years. In this case, Tesla’s decision to build its own refinery may be construed as a move to stay ahead of the competition.
Indeed, the fact that Tesla now has its own lithium processing facility makes it the only major auto manufacturer in North America to have its own means of refining the precious resource. It gives the company a leg up against China which has practically had a monopoly on the processing of lithium and other crucial materials used in battery making over the past several years.
Tesla’s refinery is slated to finish construction sometime in 2024 and begin production in the following year.
A Cleaner Enterprise
One way by which Tesla’s Texas refinery differs from those overseas is that it will not be using the chemical-reliant processes currently used throughout the industry. It would instead use a cleaner refining process developed by its own researchers.
This is a response to the concerns raised by environmental activists that the refinery would compromise the health and well-being of workers as well as both people and wildlife living within the vicinity.
But the new lithium processing plant isn’t just a point of pride for Tesla, but it’s also a way for the state of Texas to push for its own self-reliance when it comes to the power source of a greener tomorrow, as well as the possibility of becoming a major player in the increasingly competitive lithium industry.
Indeed, state Governor Greg Abbott was moved to say that the new plant will ensure that Texas is self-reliant when it comes to lithium and not, as he put it, dependent on some hostile foreign nation for its needs. Abbott went on to say that Musk and Tesla were economic juggernauts for the state.