Limiting Factory Youtuber, Jordan Giesige, analyzes key factors for Tesla Master Plan Part 3 and Investor day.
Elon Musk and Tesla have previously described getting to 20 Terawatt hours per year and a total of 300 Terawatt hours of batteries to transition energy and transportation to electricity.
This means 14 million tons of lithium carbonate per year for 20 Terawatt hours per year. It means a total of 214 million tons of lithium carbonate for 300 Terawatt hours.
Nextbigfuture has looked at global lithium supplies before. Australia is the world’s largest lithium producer. They have a government forecast for the lithium market. Lithium supply-and-demand will be tight in 2023. In a quarterly report issued in December, it said world demand is estimated to rise to 724,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2023, from 486,000 metric tons in 2021, as “global EV uptake rises”. Total global production, measured as lithium carbonate equivalent, was forecast in December at 485,000 tonnes in 2021, growing to 615,000 tonnes in 2022 and 821,000 tonnes in 2023, according to Australia’s Department of Industry.
486000 metric tons of lithium carbonate made about 100000 tons of lithium for car batteries. Tesla needs about 10 kilograms of lithium per 50 kwh car.
BenchmarkMinerals forecasts a 83 gigawatt hours (GWh) deficit is expected from tier one lithium ion battery producers in 2023, according to Benchmark forecasts. Benchmark expects this gap to grow to more than 400 GWh by 2030. Benchmark estimates lithium industry needs $42 billion of investment if it is to meet 2030 demand. This works out at approximately $7 billion a year between now and 2028 if the industry is to meet lithium demand by the end of the decade. Benchmark forecasts lithium demand in 2030 will reach 2.4 million tonnes LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent)—almost 1.8 million tonnes more than the 600,000 tonnes of lithium Benchmark forecasts will be produced in 2022.
Tesla has over $20 billion of cash available now and is adding free cashflow at a few billion per quarter.
Tesla meeting its goals will require nearly doubling the projected lithium production to about 5 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent. This can be done with a combination of lithium mining improvements, rapidly scaling sodium batteries and other process and battery improvements. The extra batteries Tesla needs are mainly the ones for the Tesla Semi and Tesla Megapacks. Megapack storage batteries can be shifted to less energy dense batteries like sodium batteries.
Sufficient Lithium Resources
A lot of lithium comes from brines. Underground sources of highly concentrated salt water that also has lithium. Subsurface or deep aquifer brines are abundant in Alberta and Saskatchewan oil and gas field and some of those have elevated lithium concentrations and are potential resources. Brines can have about 10000 times higher concentrations of lithium than in seawater. The best brine sources (notably the Salar de Atacama in Chile) can reach 5000 parts per million (ppm) lithium.
The brine process involves drilling wells and pump the brine from underground into a series of evaporation ponds. In dry desert climates, the water in the brine evaporates, leaving behind a brine with even higher mineral content (basically a salty mud). Once the lithium content reaches target levels (up to 6% by weight), the highly concentrated brine is sent via pipeline or tank truck to a lithium processing facility.
Conventional brine facilities based on evaporation ponds typically recover only 30% to 50% of the lithium in the brine, and the extraction process takes roughly 36 months. Doubling lithium recovery could DOUBLE the amount of lithium that an existing brine operation produces.
Calgary-based E3 Metals raised C$9.8 million ($7.8 million). They have a three-well program to evaluate lithium in a brine aquifer associated with the 1947 Leduc oil discovery that launched the Alberta fossil fuel industry. E3 Lithium has one of the largest inferred lithium resources amongst its lithium peers with 24.3 Million Tonnes (Mt) of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE), hosted in the world-class Leduc Aquifer. The Leduc aquifer could produce about 5 million tons of lithium. This covers just 69% of the Company’s permit area in south-central Alberta.
What the USGS defines as lithium reserves is only enough for about 100 TWh of lithium batteries.
Global lithium production surpassed 100,000 tonnes for the first time in 2021, quadrupling from 2010. 90% of it came from just three countries (Australia, Chile and China).
There are enough identified global lithium resources to meet the 300 TWh target. They need to be developed and mined quickly enough to be made available at scale in 10-15 years.
Identified lithium resources are 89 million tons (2022). Identified lithium resources in the United States—from continental brines, geothermal brines, hectorite, oilfield brines, pegmatites, and searlesite—are 9.1 million tons. Identified lithium resources in other countries have been revised to 80 million tons. Identified lithium resources are distributed as follows:
Bolivia, 21 million tons;
Argentina, 19 million tons;
Chile, 9.8 million tons;
Australia, 7.3 million tons;
China, 5.1 million tons;
Congo (Kinshasa), 3 million tons;
Canada, 2.9 million tons; [E3 Lithium’s Leduc Aquifer does not fully qualify as identified lithium yet. If Leduc qualified as a resource then this would increase to 7.9 million tons.]
Germany, 2.7 million tons;
Mexico, 1.7 million tons;
Czechia, 1.3 million tons;
Serbia, 1.2 million tons;
Limiting Factor Analysis
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
5 thoughts on “Tesla Master Plan Part 3 and Investor Day Expectations”
I did some basic numbers on flywheels with Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWP).
Flywheel potential is totally based on specific strength which is the strength of a material in tension before it breaks depending on it’s weight. So lighter with more strength is very good. We have some new cheap plastics that would be very good for this. You can use specific strength to get the Wh/kg of various materials
Here’s some typical numbers from flywheel books and papers, Wh/kg=watt hours per kilogram
batteries for reference
Lithium ion battery 100-265 Wh/kg
Lead-Acid 30 Wh/kg
Aluminum 28 Wh/kg
Composite carbon fiber – 40% epoxy 52 Wh/kg
Glass fiber E-Glass 180 Wh/kg
Vectran 286 Wh/kg
now some more exotic
Silicon, monocrystalline (m-Si) 414 Wh/kg
Toray T1000G fiber 491 Wh/kg
Dyneema or Spectra (UHMWPE) 512 Wh/kg
Multi-walled carbon nanotubes(low end) 793 Wh/kg
Boron nitride nanotube 1,747 Wh/kg
Multi-walled carbon Nnanotubes(high end) 4,761 Wh/kg
Single wall carbon nanotube(low end) 5,341 Wh/kg
Colossal carbon tube 8252 Wh/kg
Graphene 17,944 Wh/kg
Single wall carbon nanotube(high end) 53,418 Wh/kg
If you look at the very high end materials they are mostly carbon and they have so damn much headroom to work with that even if they are not perfect they have huge Wh/kg potential. If the cost of processing could be lowered it would be akin to a new industrial revolution. It would be big deal. A lot of cost of advanced materials for manufacturing eventually reach down to near the cost of the material itself and carbon cost are next to nothing.
I believe with a few changes flywheels could be made cost effective. Look at the energy storage for Dyneema or Spectra (UHMWPE) 512 Wh/kg I quoted. That’s not a bad figure. Let’s say we cut it in half for a containment structure and safety then cut that by 30% we still have 180 Wh/kg which is not bad at all. Now let’s look at the price of UHMWPE with a fast search and we get,
Best Price UHMWPE Synthetic Ice for Ice Rink
FOB Price: US $ 3-4.9 / kg
Min. Order: 10 kg
So at 180 Wh/kg and this price per kg and 100 kW-hr, (larger Tesla model S battery),we get $1,666.66 so even if you double that to around $3,333.33 that’s some damn cheap batteries.
Present cost of batteries are somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000 for a Tesla car. If you could cut $15,000 off the price of an electric car what do you think that would portend for the sale of electric cars?
I bet the price of UHMWPE could be brought down it’s, if I’m not mistaken, polyethylene with super long chains that has the molecules stretched and aligned as it’s being made. Polyethylene is not that damn expensive and if enough of this equipment was made it could lower the cost even more.
“… In 2020, the average global price of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) shorter chains than UHMWPE but mostly the same stuff] stood at 815 U.S. dollars per metric ton…”
So $0.82 a kg and if the processing is most of the cost then there’s a long way to go in reducing prices and we haven’t even talked about graphene which has obscenely higher strengths and the cost is plummeting as we speak.
If graphene cost come way down it could amplify the whole process. It’s insanely strong so it could be used for cars, bridges, houses, anything and since it’s just carbon the cost could potentially be super, super cheap.
There is clear cut, right now, engineered ways to drastically cut the cost of living if we could get the Oligarchs(Jews) off our backs. There’s a vast room for improvement.
Looks like rethinking transportation and moving away from EV’s with massive batteries and to aerodynamically efficient EV’s will be absolutely required. Rail transport will return with a vengeance. The EU and Asia are much closer to optimal and moving faster in the right direction. USA needs to see a shrink.
The problem is not just lithium. It is all the other components that go into making the EV system, and the renewables infrastructure that is implicit in the shadows. There is something wrong with the all-EV all-renewables vision which cannot be solved without breaking the bank and destroying the carrying capacity of most regions.
In the future we will all live on fairy dust. Predictions, good intentions, and wishes are fairy dust.
Well, fairy dust is how the future tends to pan out. In only 2010, if you’d told me that wind and solar were the fastest growing energy sectors, cheaper than gas, and coal was looking uneconomic without even taking into account its pollution costs, I’d have laughed along with you. Yet here we are.
“…The problem is not just lithium…”
And what would these be? We can use aluminum for conductors, flywheels for batteries and silicon steel for Switched Reluctance Motors. We will not run out of any of these. Musk said we will not run out of lithium and he ought to know, so even if we use lithium we are still good. There are no facts to back up this fearmongering. None.
It appears to me a large part of ALL shortages, fertilizer, fuel, electricity, food, on and on appear to be contrived. That if monopolist were not in control, we would have plenty.
One example. Robert Murray-Smith, a chemist who builds all sorts of batteries, patented a carbon battery/Capacitor with a very large Wh/Kg capacity. Larger than lithium. He was bought ought by the Edison Company. He did videos where he showed how they were going to use these to make batteries for solar houses in the US. Came to the US, showed the land they were going to develop, then…nothing. I would bet a great deal that what did was pump him up about how they were going to do all these great things. Gave him a small sum like $200K for “exclusive” rights to his patents and silence on the deal, then they sat on them. You’ve heard nothing from them. This happens constantly. You can’t trust big corporations. They do this all the time. I can think of several instances where they bought people out with superior tech then just buried it. I bet this happened to him. He eventually moved on from just batteries to making videos of all sorts of DIY type stuff.
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