Tesla has broken ground on a lithium refinery in Texas that CEO Elon Musk says should produce enough of the metal for around one million electric vehicle (EV) batteries by 2025.
Musk says lithium mining and refining is necessary for Tesla if it is to meet its EV sales targets.
The refinery is set to make Tesla the largest processor of lithium in North America.
At the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, Musk said: “As we look ahead a few years, a fundamental choke point in the advancement of electric vehicles is the availability of battery grade lithium.”
Tesla hopes to finish the factory next year and then reach full production in 2025.
The move will make Tesla the only major car manufacturer in North America that will refine its own lithium.
Speaking at the ceremony, Texas governor Greg Abbott said: “Texas wants to be able to be self-reliant, not dependent upon any foreign hostile nation for what we need – we need lithium.”
Musk said Tesla would continue to lithium from vendors, which include Albemarle Corp and Livent Corp.
He said: “We intend to continue to use suppliers of lithium, so it’s not that Tesla will do all of it.”
Albemarle plans to build a lithium processing facility in South Carolina that will refine 100,000 tonnes of lithium each year, with construction set to begin next year and the facility coming online by the end of the decade.
Tesla said it would forego the lithium industry’s conventional refining process, which relies on sulfuric acid and other strong chemicals, in favor of less environmentally harmful materials, such as soda ash.
Musk has urged entrepreneurs to enter the lithium-refining business, saying it is like “minting money”.
The refinery is the latest expansion by Tesla into Texas after the manufacturer relocated its HQ from California in 2021.
Image: Rokas Tenys/Shutterstock
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