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Tesla's Bet on Winning the Global Lithium Race
" ... The world's largest lithium-ion battery factory—a 10-million-square-foot so-called Gigafactory planned by Tesla Motors for 2017—will eventually produce more battery power each year than was produced globally in 2013.
The factory would provide an in-house solution to a persistent supply-chain problem for Tesla, generating enough top-of-the-line lithium-ion battery packs (and then some) to allow Tesla's assembly lines to roll off as many as half a million electric vehicles per year. It would also make Tesla by far the world's largest lithium-ion battery-cell supplier. But in ratcheting up battery supply to meet its own growing demand, Tesla faces a new supply-chain challenge: securing enough lithium and other battery-making materials at a low enough cost to keep both the Gigafactory and Tesla's business model humming. ...
In fact, there have been short-term oversupply concerns for companies in the business of producing lithium. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimates that Tesla may soak up as much as 17 percent of the current global supply of lithium when its Gigafactory is running at full capacity (15,000 to 25,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually), which would ease oversupply fears—a more conservative forecast from Bank of America put Tesla's lithium needs at 9,000 tons. ...
"There's no question that this is an incredible risky business move by Tesla," Jaffe said. "They're bringing a tremendous amount of risk to their business by doing this. But that's what makes them such an exciting company to watch. You've got a huge company with a stellar brand that's essentially risking it all to shoot for the stars." Or if not the stars, maybe at least the lithium-rich Bolivian salt flats at 12,000 feet above sea level."
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