Tesla planning for life beyond cobalt batteries

Tesla are reportedly making big plans for their Shanghai Gigafactory, with Elon Musk’s company looking at using lithium batteries made without cobalt into Model 3 vehicles built at the new facility in China.

Tesla have held talks with Chinese battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) centred around using lithium iron phosphate batteries made by CATL, rather than the currently used lithium-ion batteries that contain cobalt.

Cobalt is one of the most expensive components used in the manufacturing process of an electric vehicle battery and one of the reasons why electric vehicle prices remain so high. There are also issues surrounding the sourcing of the material, with a majority of the material coming from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where operations have been linked with child labour.

While the move to lithium iron phosphate batteries would substantially reduce the cost of electric vehicles, the batteries are also far less dense, meaning the expected vehicle range would also be reduced.

To counteract this, CATL has been working on increasing the density of batteries increase by 10-15 percent through new cell-to-pouch technology.

While nothing has been officially announced, it is believed that talks between the two companies have been in progress for at least 12 months.

Sales of lithium iron phosphate batteries decreased by 8 percent in 2019, as EV manufacturers focused on building batteries with longer driving range. However, Chinese investment bank China International Capital Corporation expect a turnaround of fortunes in 2020, claiming sales could increase by up to 20 percent on the back of a CATL partnership with Tesla combined with Tesla’s growing presence in China.

Source: The Driven | Tesla could be planning cobalt-free electric car batteries with CATL

21 Feb 2020

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