Published on September 15th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro40
Tesla’s Lithium Supply Relies On America’s Loneliest Highway
September 15th, 2014 by Christopher DeMorro
The Tesla Gigafactory deal with Nevada has been officially inked, and in addition to $1.2 billion in financial incentives from the Silver State, Tesla is also getting a new highway. Specifically, the state will build a connecting road between Interstate 80 and Interstate 50, known as “America’s Loneliest Highway” at Tesla’s behest. But why?
It has everything to do with the Chemetall-Foote lithium mine, which is America’s largest lithium mine and is located about four hours south of the Gigafactory site. Seeking Alpha reports that this extra road has more to do with just lithium supplies though, as the new owners of the mine could become one of Tesla’s most important suppliers for more than just lithium.
The Chemetall-Foote mine is in the process of being acquired by Ablemarle, by chemical and catalyst company Ablemarle. Not only will Ablemarle likely provide all the lithium for the up-to 500,000 batteries coming out of the Gigafactory by 2020, but it could also supply the much-needed electrode materials. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, Ablemarle may also soon by acquired by another company, lithium and battery supplier BASF, which could be either a rival or an ally of Tesla Motors…which brings us back to that new highway connecting two desert highways.
The Tesla Gigafactory won’t just run primarily on renewable energy, but will also use locally-sourced materials coming from within the same state. This minor highway extension could shave an hour or more off of the four-hour journey between the mine and Gigafactory. That 25% time savings is apparently crucial enough to Tesla for it to be included in the massive state incentives package, and with a nearby lithium mine positioned to provide not just raw materials, but possibly electrodes as well, Tesla vehicles could become more American than even the Ford F-150.
Tesla seems to be counting on the Chemetall-Foote mine for its lithium supply, enough so that they’re asking the state of Nevada to build them a highway. It shows just how much Elon’s influence has grown, as well as how large the Gigafactory ecosystem is going to be.