shortage of lithium to factory

shortage of lithium to factory

I am wondering due to forecast estimates that Tesla did for model 3 if there will be a production shortage of lithium cells due to amount of lithium that can be delivered and speed of producing the cells from raw materials.
Now that pre-orders are way over the roof of their projections, even though giga-factory is operational obviously not fully, can it produce the amount of lithium needed yearly to fulfill orders in a timely fashion?! I'm not worried about
the metal fab at all, but more of this power for the cars.
There is time to get that all together and fix any delays that might occur to arrival of lithium. I don't know how fast the material to battery turnover is.
My guess is they will need to produce 150k cars yrly right off the bat. That's 535 cars a day on a 5 day work week 8hr day or 66 cars a minute or 1.06 car every second.
Best case would be 3 production yrs to fulfill this forward order log in just 2 weeks. I can't imagine what could happen when we get these cars, find out how awesome it is, then nearly 10% of our friends will want one,
10% of those will actually put in an order for one. It could be crazy.
I'm not a battery tech so I have no idea-Anyone out there know?
Quoted from source-
The Gigafactory is set to supply batteries for the 500,000 cars Tesla hopes to produce by the end of the decade, as well as to power homes. The company hopes that by supplying its own batteries it can cut its costs per kilowatt-hour by more than 30 per cent, crucial for the mass-market uptake of electric vehicles.

But that will require secure, long-term supplies of lithium, more than 70 per cent of which is found in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Due to growth in demand for electric batteries, the global lithium market is approaching a shortage, with no new supply coming on stream next year, say analysts. At the same time, battery factories being built in China are set to increase demand for lithium.

“Raw material availability is probably the biggest challenge facing the Gigafactory outside of the need for basic demand,” says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a consultancy in London. “It is also the only area of the electric vehicle supply chain where Tesla does not have ownership and control.”

brando | 13 April 2016

A few things you can verify. (use internet search to find actual links)

Li is more abundant than Pb (lead)

Only about 3% of battery cost Li. Nickle and Cobalt are largest costs so far.
Most anywhere you find salt, you'll find Li. Yes, ocean water too.

Here are best videos I have found.
Yi Cui is an associate professor at Stanford University and SLAC.


And this guy starts work with Tesla summer 2016
Professor Jeff Dahn (Dalhousie University)
Why do Li-ion Batteries die ? and how to improve the situation?


Watch these two guys talks and you'll understand more than the other 99%.

Red Sage ca us | 13 April 2016

Lithium is everywhere. It is an essential element of life. Nothing on Earth lives without it. Lithium is not in any way rare or hard to come by. Relax. Chill. Chillax.

KP in NPT | 13 April 2016

since DD didn't link his source (again,) I will -

BTW the internet is loaded with articles wondering about Li supply....mostly from last year.

bcfireworks | 13 April 2016

1. The Gigafactory will initially be used to manufacture Tesla battery packs from batteries assembled elsewhere, the ability to fully vertically integrate the plant to 'make' batteries is off a few years in the future and their ability to drive down costs is blunted by this. I think Tesla has already more or less admitted as much.
2. There's new battery technology coming - always has been and always will be. The latest splash is around aluminum based battery technology.

Bighorn | 13 April 2016

One car every 1.06 seconds--are you serious with your math or just an honest to god idiot? That's as far as I could get through your foolishness.

KP in NPT | 13 April 2016

Bighorn LOL!!!

jackhub | 13 April 2016

Here we go again! We had this discussion before on the Model S forum. There are no problems with the lithium supply.

bcfireworks | 13 April 2016

I can build a car in 1.05 seconds, and it's going to be a spectacular car, a really great car, number one, it's going to be YYUUUUGE and I'm going to make GM pay for it!

WormtownKris | 13 April 2016

By OP's math, he/she intended to say 66/ hour and 1.06/ minute.

cweber | 13 April 2016

bcfire - you owe me a new shirt - no way am I getting these coffee stains and boogers out....

dd.micsol | 13 April 2016

It's simple math-
150k cars
There are 280 working days a yr
so 150,000/280=535 cars a day
now divide that by 8hrs in a working day
535/8=66 cars an hr-
Okay I'm wrong-1.06cars a minute. My bad.
Thanks for the correction.

dd.micsol | 13 April 2016

According to wiki
Although lithium is widely distributed on Earth, it does not naturally occur in elemental form due to its high reactivity.[5] The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion tonnes, where the element exists at a relatively constant concentration of 0.14 to 0.25 parts per million (ppm),[41][42] or 25 micromolar;[43] higher concentrations approaching 7 ppm are found near hydrothermal vents.[42]

Estimates for the Earth's crustal content range from 20 to 70 ppm by weight.[16] In keeping with its name, lithium forms a minor part of igneous rocks, with the largest concentrations in granites. Granitic pegmatites also provide the greatest abundance of lithium-containing minerals, with spodumene and petalite being the most commercially viable sources.[16] Another significant mineral of lithium is lepidolite.[44] A newer source for lithium is hectorite clay, the only active development of which is through the Western Lithium Corporation in the United States.[45] At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth's crust,[46] lithium is the 25th most abundant element.

According to the Handbook of Lithium and Natural Calcium, "Lithium is a comparatively rare element, although it is found in many rocks and some brines, but always in very low concentrations. There are a fairly large number of both lithium mineral and brine deposits but only comparatively few of them are of actual or potential commercial value. Many are very small, others are too low in grade."[47]

The US Geological Survey estimates that in 2010, Chile had the largest reserves by far (7.5 million tonnes)[48] and the highest annual production (8,800 tonnes). One of the largest reserve bases[note 1] of lithium is in the Salar de Uyuni area of Bolivia, which has 5.4 million tonnes. Other major suppliers include Australia, Argentina and China.[40][49]

In June 2010, the New York Times reported that American geologists were conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan believing that large deposits of lithium are located there. "Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia, which now has the world's largest known lithium reserves."[50] These estimates are "based principally on old data, which was gathered mainly by the Soviets during their occupation of Afghanistan from 1979–1989". Stephen Peters, the head of the USGS's Afghanistan Minerals Project, said that he was unaware of USGS involvement in any new surveying for minerals in Afghanistan in the past two years. 'We are not aware of any discoveries of lithium,' he said."[51]

It will cost a lot to extract lithium from salt water/ocean water and too expensive a process to be commercial to make batteries.

Red Sage ca us | 13 April 2016

And... you couldn't have visited Wikipedia before posting this nonsense... Why?

dd.micsol | 13 April 2016


I missed this tweet-
Battery issue is solved more or less:
EM: Battery uses no rare Earth metals. Main Ingredient is nickel, which is what's used to coat cutlery, so very non-toxic.

I didn't see that one before.
Posted on TMC forum. Glad I keep reading all over. Hope this is news to some of you.

MarlonBrown | 13 April 2016

I watched Elon Musk talking about this subject few years ago. He correctly envisioned that there are plenty of metals needed for todays electric cars on the earth crust. Even though the battery is called "Lithium ion", less than five percent of the battery if I recall correctly is made of lithium. Elon went to say the only somewhat rare mineral used was Cobalt. But since batteries can be recycled, shortage of minerals is not a concern.

PhillyGal | 13 April 2016

bcfire!!! You win today.

KP in NPT | 13 April 2016

dd, let this be a learning moment.


Red Sage ca us | 13 April 2016

From an older conversation:

I don't think resources are a big issue at all. Lithium, aluminum, copper, nickel, and oxygen all exist in multiple compounds that are readily available. Those compounds are processed all the time for a wide variety of uses. Tesla Motors can either use the raw, unrefined compounds, or isolated, refined elements to produce their batteries. There will be no shortages, because there are too many avenues to acquire the elements needed for anyone to corner the market on any of them.

RedShift | 13 April 2016

OK, I gotta ask you guys this : someone mentioned to me that big lithium battery manufacturers prefer 'virgin' Lithium not recycled, so the Lithium batteries are actually going to poison this earth. Hence BEVs are inferior to Hydrogen FCEVs.

I countered the hydrogen argument in other ways, but I couldn't quite rebut the recycling part. Anyone here with the know how? I tried googling and reading through many links but got no clear answer.

Is Lithium recycling really such a bad proposition?

Red Sage ca us | 13 April 2016

RedShift: Lithium-ion batteries were ruled by the EPA to be landfill safe, and environmentally neutral. They don't poison anything at all. Everyone who tries the 'poison' angle is either very much uninformed, or flat out lying. There is, on the other hand, very few things that are more environmentally damaging than petroleum fuels, which are considered to be carcinogens. You could take a bath in Lithium salts every day for the rest of your life and be fine. I wouldn't try that with gasoline or diesel if I were you.

Haggy | 13 April 2016

The machines in the factory require very little downtime for maintenance, so the factory can be used far more than eight hours a day, 280 days a year. If demand is high enough, Tesla will need more workers and more shifts.

RedShift | 13 April 2016


I'd feel better if they were efficiently recycled, but I guess I will have to settle for what the current state of the art seems to be.

Of course, comparison to fossil fuel burning, it's got to be better, but I'd want to see the recycling part improve. Maybe as time goes by and scale happens, recycling technology will improve.

dd.micsol | 14 April 2016

According to MIT Battery research dept - I work at MIT (which is why my math was wrong-short on time-sincere apologies-at least I admit it when I am wrong)- when lithium is recycled it is purified. However, with graphene ion batteries-the purification isn't as necessary. Model 3 and the new S will have graphene ion battery. As Elon said at unveil-best or most advance tech in battery is most important. This will also allow faster charging and greater range and more battery cycles-car longevity.

KP in NPT | 14 April 2016

*cough* um, you work at MIT?

dd.micsol | 14 April 2016

Yup. Senior linux system administrator. Currently overseeing human genome sequencing server.

Nexxus | 14 April 2016


I think you're making a mountain out of a mole hill here. The factory is only about 25% utilized. They will add more production lines, people, shifts, etc... to get the job done. There are readily available lithium deposits right in Nevada they can access. Duracell and Eveready already recycle their batteries and about 4% of the new batteries has reused materials in them. I don't know exactly how Tesla plans to recycle their batteries, but EM has already said they would recycle them at the Gigafactory. My guess, they will grind them up, separate the materials, purify them, and reuse more than 4% in each new battery, maybe up to 20% old vs. new. Us worrying about this is of no consequence. Let Elon and his bright engineers come up with the plan to fast forward production and deal with the necessities.

Hi_Tech | 14 April 2016

Gigafactory is only about 1.9 million sq.ft. of operational space, out of the total roughly 12 million sq.ft. they expect when fully completed. Yes, it looks huge in those videos right now... wait till it's truly completed! :-)

As for shortage of material, in my opinion, this will be one of the changes to their production plans they'll need to rethink (not shortage, but planned acquisition). Another area will be how to ramp up of production, in terms of building additional space, as well as shifts, hours, robots, etc.

In short, as someone above mentioned, "chillax"! :-)

@bcfire - Love the comment! Make cars great again!

finman100 | 14 April 2016

So...does anyone think (with their conspiracy hat on)...that auto companies (cough, GM, cough) or an Exxon/Chevron-type oil company...could buy-out and sit on Lithium reserves that Tesla doesn't control? Similar to the NiMH large format battery patents that they both sat on that prevented the 1st modern EVs from taking a hold? Or are we past that? Discuss. www dot ev1 dot org/chevron.

Bill Korea | 14 April 2016

This lithium shortage scare is promoted by owners of lithium resource stock who think they are smart for adding 1 plus 1 together. As others have suggested, the amount of lithium in the Tesla battery amounts to a few hundred dollars only, and it is recyclable. Even if lithium prices change wildly, the effect on car production will be minor. There are stories out there about how Tesla will need to takeover the world's lithium production. Surely they will need to produce many batteries, but that is not the same thing.

velnosju | 14 April 2016

Having worked around a factory environment in the past, factories producing products with no demand limitation run 24 hours a day 7 days a week (most of the time). There is no reason to have large amounts of downtime. In fact it is expensive to shutdown and bring up the machines and get the line running again. They will run multiple productions lines full bore 24 hours a day when Model 3 production starts.

Chad.Swindall | 14 April 2016

dd - that plant will run 24/7 or at minimum 24/5. Your math is way off.

carlgo | 14 April 2016

Thousands of tons of different materials will have to be delivered to the factory. Probably mostly already processed? Not a big pile of lithium and a scoop loader out back? The metal parts presumably brought in as blanks ready to press or machine? Maybe some stuff brought into the Port of Oakland and then sent over the mountains by train and then on a return trip to Fremont as batteries?

Anyway, supplying the Gigafactory might be the hard part. It does not seem that there is a railroad spur and loading dock, but maybe by now?

Big T | 14 April 2016

OK, new concentrations of lithium are hard to find. So are new concentrations of oil and natural gas. We have the solution: fracking!

Anemometer | 14 April 2016

I'm glad someone else aready pointed out - factories don't run for 8 hours a day. 3 shifts x 8 hours is normal. Get 1 line running during development phase. Add another. As initial build stages of assembly line on line 1 are completed the same folks will start work on building line 2 before the later stages of line 1 are completed.
By the time line 1 is fully operational they might be starting work on line 4! You have to remember some of these guys are not novices they have come from other auto makers who are used to going from 0 to 500,000 cars a year on a model like the Ford Fusion (Mondeo in Europe). Just US sales are 300k per year so on a model refresh they have to repurpose a few dozen lines. | 14 April 2016

Golly, we'd better alert Elon. Oh, he and his employees already took care of this a couple of years ago? Never mind.

There will probably be about 3000 cells in a M≡ battery pack. There are about 7000 in the larger 90 kWh pack in the MS and MX and maybe 5200-5699 or so in the 70-75 kWh packs. If Tesla produces 200,000 cars in 2018, half M≡, they will need something like 900 million cells. That's about 1 billion times 12 wh/cell worth.

I make that out to be 10 Gwh worth of cells. What is the projected capacity of the Gigafactory?
"Its projected capacity for 2020 is 35 gigawatt-hours per year of cells as well as 50 GWh/yr of battery packs. To achieve this the factory would employ approximately 6,500 people and supply 500,000 Tesla cars per year."