BMW: Close To 10-Year Lithium + Cobalt Supply Deal — Is This Just A Response To News That Tesla Is Locking In Supply Deals?

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Following the unofficial news that Tesla’s now in talks with the Chile-based lithium mining firm SQM about securing long-term lithium supplies, a BMW exec has now been quoted by Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying that a 10-year supply contract for lithium and cobalt for BMW was now close to being signed.

Coincidence? Considering that the German auto firms seem to release fluff PR statements anytime Tesla is in the news, I’m inclined to think that it’s not a coincidence.

Perhaps BMW has finally gotten things together with regard to battery material supplies, though. Perhaps they just felt an impetus at this point to broadcast that work … before the contract was actually signed. Odd, but also sensible if BMW doesn’t want to be seen as too far behind Tesla.

(By the way, if you missed it, be sure to see: Nope, Cobalt’s Not A Problem For The EV Revolution Or Tesla, a CleanTechnica exclusive published yesterday.)

Given the negative PR that Tesla has managed to generate for itself over the past few days, it would perhaps be somewhat surprising for BMW to release a statement like this as a distraction, though — between the 4th quarter financials and deep delays of base Model 3 production (not to mention some of the responses to the SpaceX launch of a Tesla Roadster into space), Elon Musk hasn’t exactly been getting a good appraisal in the news lately.

Anyway, back to the news at hand. BMW’s Markus Duesmann was quoted by the German newspaper as saying: “The aim is to secure the supply all the way down to the level of the mine, for 10 years. The contracts are ready to be signed.”

Reuters provides more: “Rival Volkswagen has said it is pushing to secure long-term supply contracts to avoid material shortages as it aims to invest €34 billion ($42 billion) in battery-powered cars by 2022 to challenge Tesla. Separately, BMW said it had put a procurement partnership with Daimler on ice, given a probe into potential antitrust behaviour by German carmakers, FAZ said.

“In a sign of the growing importance of high-grade Nickel for long-range batteries, German chemicals giant BASF has entered talks over a supply partnership with Russian miner Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) to produce battery chemicals in Europe. Belgium’s Umicore, which competes with BASF and Johnson Matthey in cathode materials for automotive batteries, this week raised €892 million to expand that business.”

Taken altogether, it does appear that the gears are now in motion, but it’s too early to tell how serious these statements from BMW execs are. It’s always difficult to see how it compares to the efforts of other large automakers and Tesla.

To close, below are videos and some of the graphs from that exclusive CleanTechnica article on cobalt referenced above.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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