Tesla’s goal of mass-producing its 4680 battery cells recently took a significant step forward on Wednesday, when New Caledonian miner Prony Resources announced that the EV maker had agreed to purchase 42,000 tonnes of nickel in a multi-year deal. Nickel is a key material that Tesla needs for its high-powered batteries, such as the 4680 cells that are currently in pilot production at the company’s Kato Road facility in Fremont, California.
In a statement, Prony noted that it is aiming to produce 44,000 tonnes of nickel by 2024, effectively doubling its estimated 2021 output. During a news conference, Antonin Beurrier, Prony’s chief executive, confirmed that Tesla is now the mining company’s largest client to date. While he did not specify any details of Prony’s deal with Tesla, Beurrier did state that the 42,000-tonne volume for the EV maker was indicative and could vary.
The CEO added that Prony’s nickel supply agreement with Tesla had been negotiated by Swiss commodity trader Trafigura, a shareholder in the mining firm. The deal between Tesla and Prony was also signed last month. Interestingly enough, Tesla and Prony had already been associated even before their recently-announced nickel deal, as the electric car maker was an adviser on product and sustainability standards for the miner.
Prony is not alone in its role as a key nickel supplier for Tesla. Earlier this year, Tesla also signed a deal to acquire nickel from BHP’s operations in Australia. And considering Tesla’s goal of ramping its vehicle and energy storage production in the coming years, it would not be surprising if the company inks several more deals with other nickel suppliers in the near future. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, after all, has emphasized that nickel would be a key component for its long range vehicles’ batteries.
“I’d just like to re-emphasize, any mining companies out there, please mine more nickel. Wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel and don’t wait for nickel to go back to some high point that you experienced some five years ago. Go for efficiency and 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,” Musk said during last year’s Battery Day event, which featured the official unveiling of the company’s custom 4680 cells.
The Tesla CEO has been consistent on his nickel stance. During the recently-held 2021 Annual Shareholder Meeting, for example, Musk reiterated that the company’s most demanding vehicles like the Cybertruck and Tesla Semi would be using a nickel-based cathode. The Tesla CEO also reiterated the notion that the company’s Standard Range vehicles and battery storage products will use cells fitted with an iron-based cathode. “What actually matters is the cathode. Our long-range vehicles use a nickel-based cathode. But for our Standard Range vehicles and stationary vehicles, we’re using iron-based cathode,” Musk said.