Tesla Finds Way Around China for Battery Ingredient

Automaker finds a source of graphite in Mozambique
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 16, 2022 10:15 AM CST
Tesla Deal to Cut Dependence on China
A Tesla Supercharger station in Buford, Ga., last April.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Tesla is turning to Mozambique for a key component in its electric car batteries in what analysts believe is a first-of-its-kind deal designed to reduce its dependence on China for graphite. Elon Musk's company signed an agreement last month with Australia's Syrah Resources, which operates one of the world's largest graphite mines in the southern African country. It's a unique partnership between an electric vehicle manufacturer and a producer of the mineral that is critical for lithium-ion batteries, the AP reports. The value of the deal hasn't been released.

Tesla will buy the material from the company's processing plant in Vidalia, Louisiana, which sources graphite from its mine in Balama, Mozambique. The Austin, Texas-based electric automaker plans to buy up 80% of what the plant produces—8,000 tons of graphite per year—starting in 2025, according to the agreement. Syrah must prove the material meets Tesla’s standards. The deal is part of Tesla's plan to ramp up its capacity to make its own batteries so it can reduce its dependence on China, which dominates global graphite markets, said Simon Moores of UK-based battery materials data and intelligence provider Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

"It starts at the top with geopolitics," Moores said. "The US wants to build enough capacity domestically to be able to build (lithium-ion batteries) within the USA." Moores said producing the batteries in the US will reduce some of the questions Tesla faces about its ties to China, where there are environmental concerns at some mines. The automaker has set up a showroom in the region of Xinjiang, where officials are accused of forced labor and other human rights abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. The battery industry has been confronted with a short supply of graphite in recent months, Moores said. Graphite stores lithium inside a battery until it's needed to generate electricity by splitting into charged ions and electrons.

(More Tesla stories.)

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