Telsa to Consume World Lithium Laptop Battery Supply?

Telsa to Consume World Lithium Laptop Battery Supply?

Maybe with Tesla consuming so many batteries, battery prices can come down based on economies of scale.

Timo | 3 september 2013

This is actually a concern of mine. By simple rules of supply and demand, battery prices go up if they become harder to get. I'm sure Tesla knows this too and are already doing something to it.

ArieK | 3 september 2013

Tesla is apparently already looking at Samsung for this:

Brian H | 3 september 2013

Yep, so the question is how nimble is the supply side?

Iowa92x | 3 september 2013

Interesting, usually cost comes down with economies of scale, but an increase of cell needs by Tesla could squeeze demand and increase prices. Let's hope that doesn't happen. Guessing Tesla will build out their own battery factories if Panasonic and Samsung don't put out.

Said it before, buy Panasonic stock.

grega | 3 september 2013

Yes they're using a huge number of cells. Obviously Tesla is already looking at how to handle the battery issues, and may be hedging its bets in several ways, it'll be interesting to watch.

The wild card to me is the aluminium-air batteries, and battery swap stations. The aluminium batteries take much longer to charge but have much greater range. The swap stations provide peace of mind.

The implication is that once people are comfortable with the idea, they could purchase a 40 or 60 kWh car with limited range but suitable for ANY of their day to day use. That purchase cuts down on battery cells used as well as weight and cost for the car. Hopefully Tesla is already monitoring exactly what is "typical usage" for its cars in order to better fit that.

On any longer trip a swap out to a long range battery would be required, and would vastly extend the range. Users could either top up their swapped battery while at their destination, or swap out again. Swap stations could be placed purely on the major freeways in/out of a city really. People need to be supremely comfortable with the answer to "but what if I want to drive to X", so they can buy the right size battery, and they may never "drive to X" anyway.

Teslation | 3 september 2013

Just for kix.

How many batteries needed for Tesla to produce 5 million Tesla, MS battery size, EVs ?

How many times current world production is that ?

How many battery plants will need to be constructed?

Just to satisfy my curiosity. And I do believe Tesla can get to 5 million EV production by 2033.

Any increase in battery efficiency I'm going to assume will go to extending range as much as possible, not to decreasing the number of batteries and battery weight. So I also think the range will go to 300, 400, 500 plus miles per charge.

ian | 3 september 2013

By 2033 I would expect some new battery tech to become viable so as to make your question moot.

For them to increase production into hundreds of thousands though will outstrip current battery production, which is much more of a concern than some far out number that is way beyond the companies' stated goals.

grega | 3 september 2013

@Tesluthian, if you could pay $300 extra for a phone that had a battery that lasts 10 days instead of 6, would it be worthwhile? Obviously there are certain expected usages you have, and then extremes of usage you want to cover if you can.

I think you're right that everyone will ask for greater mileage. But they won't be willing to pay thousands more for it. (And Tesla would have their cars uploading stats that show that only 1% use more than half their battery in 2 years). If I am replacing my current car with a car that's $10,000 cheaper but has to be refuelled twice as often, it'd annoy me as I'd have to refuel twice a week... and yet $10,000 would make me think. If the tank fills itself up every night when I park though, I'd save the $10,000.

Back to the original question, I wonder if Tesla will switch to a tank that's half Li-On and half a different trade-off technology. That'll halve the pressure on the world's laptop batteries. The different technology might have a greater range offset by slower charge and other disadvantages - but only be used on the rare occasions a longer trip is needed. A best-of-both-worlds scenario.

Iowa92x | 3 september 2013

If electric cars sell millions per year, will we run out of easily mined lithium before petroleum? Hmmm...

risingsun | 3 september 2013

I think with more production of batteries you have great chances for economies of scale. You can increase automation and spread your R&D budget over a great number of batteries. Elon really is bringing the development of electric vehicles 5-10 years ahead of where it would be with out Tesla. Good job Tesla Motors and Elon.

risingsun | 3 september 2013

Iowa92x, don't worry, we can re-invade Afghanistan because they have lots of Lithium there. Joking aside, I don't think Lithium will be running out anytime soon.

"For some reason, with everyone jumping on the electric vehicle bandwagon, it's becoming really interesting to start comparing lithium to oil. Jerry Flint, in Forbes Magazine, just stated his fear that countries with lots of lithium would create their own OPEC, and thus keep the cost of electric vehicles artificially high.

Others fear that the world's lithium supplies will be quickly depleted and we will find ourselves in a whole new mess.

None of this makes any sense. So here are some reasons why we don't need to create a "strategic lithium reserve," and why, actually, the costs of lithium won't be driving up battery prices."

Teslation | 3 september 2013

Far as I know the latest stated goal for Tesla production is 500,000 EV's out of their Fremont plant, plus they want to open European and Asian plants.

I agree there may be new breakthroughs in battery chemistry, but they may just involve battery chemistry which means the battery plants just need to reformulate.

If Tesla gets to 5 million vehicles a year by 2033, I believe that would be less than 5% of world car & pickup truck production. And if Tesla doesn't make them, someone else will.

Iowa92x | 3 september 2013

@Risingsun, Thanks for the article.

Teslation | 3 september 2013


I'd pay $300 extra for a smartphone that lasted 48 hrs under heavy usage. Some old smartphone batteries don't last 15 minutes under constant usage. But I will go along with the fact not everyone will pay the extra amount. But if they're like me, they will get rid of their desktop & laptop to save money & just buy the best smartphone & tablet and still get all the work done. Plus it makes life so much simpler, which for me is what I want.

In your phone analogy, I'd say an EV range of 200 miles + is equivalent to a 3hr battery phone under constant usage.

So I'm willing to compromise, when the car range gets to 1000 miles through better chemistry etc, then cut back on the batteries to save weight, cost etc. And why not not just sell a couple different batteries, some with the low range and cost you want.

But in my opinion, to get "everyone"to switch over to EVs, especially Tesla's, you got to have the wow factor in every category. And for me, wow is 1000 miles a charge.

As a side benefit, it would also cut down on the number of supercharger stops during long trips.

Timo | 3 september 2013

5M * 8k = 40G. That's a lot of batteries.

ian | 3 september 2013

@Tesliuthian - Actually, I believe the capacity of the Fremont factory is less than 500,000 or at least GM and Toyota weren't making quite that many cars there before shutting it down. My point, however, is that Tesla will maximize their production at the factory they have before building or buying any others and they are a long way away from doing so.

As for the Lithium supply there was a pretty massive reserve just discovered near Rock Springs Wyoming. It's so new they don't yet know how big it is for sure but if other countries decide to jack up the prices I think we'll be OK...

grega | 4 september 2013

@Tesluthian I used to drive 32 miles to work, and it took 90mins. 100mile range would have done me easily. I use my phone heavily though - I can't conceive of 200miles equating (loosely) to 3 hours phone, for me 200miles is more like 48 hours of phone use or more.

And yet I would pay extra for phone use.

Do you genuinely drive that much? And would you pay an extra $30,000 for 1000 miles when it gets that cheap, instead of supercharging on the trip?

I do agree the tesla approach of being better than other cars in every way is a great strategy. I just think that as the popularity increases people will decide what they'll trade off on.

Brian H | 4 september 2013

Different strokes for different folks. 'Brain driving' is the hook for some, ease of home refueling for others, speed for yet others, etc. Extrapolating the market from your own 'scene' and preferences only goes so far. TM's genius is that it 'gets it right' for so many kinds of many!

grega | 4 september 2013

Hi Brian. Please don't misunderstand me though, I'm not saying it should be made for my needs :) Perhaps you're agreeing with me though and I'm misunderstanding you. I'm only using my own 'scene' as an indication that people are different, as you say.

Users know ICE cars well enough, so they judge EVs on their ICE knowledge. Meaning they have no 'gut feeling' on the things that make EVs appealing, until they actually use an EV regularly. Then they can understand the new vs the old, and can better choose what's best.

Until then people see weaknesses in anything they COULD have done with an ICE that they can't do with an EV, even if they never would have used their ICE car that way. And the EV advantages are invisible to them. So Tesla doesn't just make a great EV, they make an EV that meets ICE user expectations - and when they then use the car they also see the other advantages.

At the moment, range is the biggest difference. Hence there is a focus on easy to use super charging stations and battery swap out for longer trips, which theoretically removes that as a concern. It doesn't matter if people never use those - having the option is crucial to building mind share and market share.

The other part is batteries. As this thread notes even a small number of EVs use a large proportion of the worlds laptop batteries.

My comment is that as users' experience with EVs increases, and they compare EVs and cars more fairly, they may become more comfortable with smaller batteries anyway. Add better battery technologies, more recharge stations so nobody is EVER caught with power, battery swaps etc, and it's possible that doubling sales wouldn't increase battery usage.

The endpoint to this journey is not obvious. The current step needs the Model S, but that doesn't predict the step that will get the most traction in 5 years (or 10 years).

Wm. | 4 september 2013

Don't worry too much about there being enough lithium or lithium ion cells. There are enough manufacturers of high quality lithium ion small cells... Panasonic, Samsung SDI,& BYD. Either they recognize the opportunity and scale up or Tesla will do it themselves.