Elon Musk sees 'big target' in mining costs
Calling traditional metal refining processes "legacy" and "insanely complicated", Elon Musk said today his company has re-thought and simplified how lithium and nickel will be processed for his future batteries.
Musk made the comments during a live simulcast presentation of Battery Day held in a parking lot in Fremont, California, near his manufacturing facilities. Musk shared part of the presentation with Drew Baglino, SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering at Tesla.
Musk called the traditional cathode process of processing nickel "a big target" due to its high cost.
"It's insanely complicated," said Musk. "These things just grow up as legacy. We looked at the entire value chain and asked how can we make this as simple as possible."
Bagnilo and Musk said many steps in the traditional refining method could be skipped resulting in 66% less investment, 76% less processing cost and 0% waste water.
The CEO of FPX Nickel, Martin Turenne, concurred with Musk: mineral processing can be made cleaner and more economical.
"The current methods of processing [nickel] are generally well established, and they're done for a reason, because they work and because alternatives would be costly or they're at an unproven stage," said Turenne in an interview with Kitco after he watched Tesla's Battery Day presentation.
At his own FPX, Turenne believes his nickel is in a form that would be suitable for batteries with the potential to skip the smelting step.
Musk and Bragnila imagine Tesla factories processing raw nickel powder for processing.
"Raw materials from a mine go to the plant and out comes a battery," said Bragnila. "We are just consuming the raw nickel powder. It dramalitcally simplifies the raw nickel refining part of the whole process. We can eliminate billions in battery grade nickel intermediate production. It is not needed at all."
What struck Turenne during the presentation is the forecast level of demand.
"At three terawatt-hours of battery cells per annum by 2030, that would entail approximately annual consumption of 2 million tonnes of nickel. That's almost the entire scale of the current global nickel output," said Turenne.
Top 5 takeaways from #batteryday:— Andrew Miller (@amiller_bmi) September 22, 2020
1) #Lithium = #JustAddSalt; 2) Sustainability centre stage; 3) #Nickel #Cathode & #Silicon #Anode = Skip the intermediates; 4) 56% $/kwh reduction; 5) "The new spice" is coming. Lots to digest, stay tuned to @benchmarkmin for more...