Tesla breaks ground on in-house lithium refinery in Texas

Tesla broke ground on its in-house $375-million, 50 GWh/year lithium refinery outside of Corpus Christi, Texas. According to Elon Musk, Tesla hopes to complete construction next year and reach full production a year later. The Tesla Lithium refinery will suport about 1 million EVs worth of battery-grade lithium per year.

The dominant conventional process for refining battery-grade lithium from hard rocks such as spodumene and lepidolite relies on sulfuric acid and produces sodium sulfate as a byproduct—a waste stream that requires costly and proper disposal. Tesla said that it is prioritizing the elimination of the sodium sulfate refinery waste with the process it is developing.

Tesla will use inert reagents such as soda ash and lime. Tesla says that its process will use 20% less energy, and consumer reagents that are less costly, resulting in a production cost that is around 30% lower than the norm. There will also be 30% fewer process steps than in a traditional refinery.

The byproduct of the Tesla process is a mixture of sand and calcium carbonate—a viable additive in the production of construction materials, allowing the company to make use of this waste stream.

Tesla also said that in the future, it will process other intermediate lithium feedstocks, including those from recycled batteries & manufacturing scrap.

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