Tesla has a problem. If Elon Musk is to achieve his stated production output goals, there needs to be an exponential increase in lithium, nickel, cobalt and even copper production. That’s because, as we now know, each Tesla battery contains a lot of nickel, and requires at least 63kgs of lithium carbonate in a 70kWh battery. At least, that was last year.
“Well, I’d just like to re-emphasize, any mining companies out there, please mine more nickel. Okay. Wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel and don’t wait for nickel to go back to some long — some high point that you experienced some five years ago, whatever. Go for efficiency, obviously environmentally friendly nickel mining at high volume. Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time, if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way. So hopefully this message goes out to all mining companies. Please get nickel.”
Not one to wait around for industry to solve his problems for him, Elon decided to buy his own mine. Or at least a part of one. In March 2021, Brazilian miner Vale decided to sell its nickel operations in New Caledonia to a consortium including the government of New Caledonia, Trifigura, and Tesla.
Tesla, according to the story in Reuters, is expected to “act as an industrial partner to help with product and sustainability standards as well as taking some supply for its battery production.”
There is no word yet on what Tesla’s financial comittment to the project might
Musk is now floating the plan that in 2021, there will be an increasing ratio of Lithium Iron-Phosphate batteries, which, though less energy-dense, are cheaper. This presumably a requirement for reaching both of his stated goals of 10 million Teslas per year while also achieving a $25,000 price tag for lower end models.
Nature published a story in December 2020 predicting market share of various battery chemistries out to 2050.
And besides Tesla, the combined Lithium Ion Battery requirement for all other manufacturers outside of Tesla’s orbit amount to several orders of magnitude more batteries than even Elon Musk’s wildest dreams.
But none of these market analysts are considering the disruptive potential of new battery types and chemistries, of which there are several rapidly evolving toward commercial availability.
For example Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG) (TSX Venture:GMG) (OTCMKTS:GMGMF) recently announced a deal with Robert Bosch Australia to engineer, procure and construct a graphene aluminum ion battery manufacturing plant in Australia to produce the company’s coin cell and pouch batteries for commercial deployment.
Among the most exciting of the new technologies in the EV battery space, GMG’s technology, developed by the University of Queensland, boasts a range of impressive improvements over the incumbent lithium chemistries, inclduing:
- up to 70 times faster charging;
- up to 6 times the energy density;
- no nickel, cobalt or lithium required;
- zero fire hazard.
Bearing in mind that the company is still at least a few years away from being able to produce these batteries at a scale that would satisfy Tesla’s 20 million vehicle appetite, this new chemistry is nonetheless likely to attract the interest of major electronics manufacturers should the product continue to evolve with its best features intact.
In a recent interview with CEO Craig Nicol, we couldn’t help but notice a change in expression when asked about the interest from the world’s largest lithium ion battery consumers. Understandably, Nicol did not divulge any particularly earth shattering names in that regard, which only adds to his credibility and the intrigue surrounding the company.
It is important to consider who the talent behind GMG is. The team assembled by Nicol -himself a systems engineer with a 20 year track record of delivering large scale, multi-billion dollar innovation projects including Liquid Natural Gas systems as an employee of Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS.A), is chaired by former Royal Dutch Shell EVP of strategy Guy Outen, who left the fossil-fuel energy behemouth to join GMG.
” #graphene ‘s ability to significantly enhance performance and reduce environmental impacts in the near/mid term in a whole range of applications is enormous … and important
– Guy Outen, Chairman, Graphene Manufacturing Group
Robbert de Weijer, executive director o GMG’s battery team, led Shell’s North Sea Southern production assets, a team of more than 1,500 people and annual operating expenditure of $900 million.
The depth of bench talent in GMG is far too extensive for this article, but suffice to say that the resumes are more consistent with a Fortune 500 company than a development stage company.
But Graphene Manufacturing Group isn’t just a participant in the emerging world EV battery space.
The company’s core business is producing a wide range of graphene products from natural gas, making it one of the world’s lowest-cost producers of graphene. From diesel fuel additive (that reduces overall emissions and fuel efficiency) to HVAC coatings, there are significant opportunities within GMG’s orbit that the company is judiciously developing (or shelving, when the ROI and investment is determined to be of lesser priority) in parallel to its batteries.
It is for this veritable “embarrassment of riches” across the future graphene spectrum that I invested $200,000 in the company in 2019 -an investment that has so far risen by nearly 1,000 percent.
And I have no reason to expect anything more or less for the payoff to continue.
©2021 Midas Letter. All Rights Reserved.
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