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Tesla Motors (TSLA) eyes battery factory to boost electric car production


Automakers and consumer electronics manufacturers increasingly turn to lithium-ion batteries to power their products. After Tesla Motors (TSLA) reportedly consumed a significant chunk of battery output produced in 2013, the company may begin working with other manufacturers to produce their own battery supply.

By Matthew KlippensteinGuest blogger / February 26, 2014

The 210,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold around the world last year used a lot of lithium-ion batteries.

But if startup automaker Tesla Motors (TSLA) has its way, it will soon need as many lithium-ion cells (of the 18650 format it uses) as are now built worldwide.

That's why the company plans to release more details this week on its upcoming "gigafactory," a huge U.S. plant to build the cells it needed to let it boost production from last year's 24,000 electric cars to more than 100,000 by 2018.

Already electric cars are consuming huge amounts of lithium-ion cells--and if the sector grows as expected, a whole new industrial base for battery production may be required.

42 cars, 5 gigawatt-hours

Here's the math from last year--Tesla's first full year of production for its Model S electric luxury sport sedan.

Building off the hard work of Jose Pontes at, which tracks sales of 42 different electric vehicles around the world, the sector appears to have consumed about 4800 MegaWatt-hours (MWh) of lithium-ion batteries.

Market research has predicted that in 2013 the total global lithium-ion battery market–excluding cars–would be about 40,000 MWh (with a healthy margin of error).

Add in the auto sector, and electric vehicles already represent roughly one-tenth of global lithium-ion cell use. And this comes merely three years after the December 2010 debuts of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

Tesla vs Nissan

Then came the Tesla Model S, which went into volume production in fall 2012. Though it was outsold more than two-to-one by the Nissan Leaf, its much bigger battery pack meant the California carmaker used far more lithium-ion capacity per car.