Several people have been asking me whether Tesla should now be considered competition for EnergyX because Tesla recently announced it was breaking ground on a lithium refinery based in South Texas.
My answer is both yes and no. Let me explain.
CUSTOMER OR COMPETITION
Tesla theoretically could be a very large EnergyX customer as we start producing large volumes of lithium. Meanwhile, Tesla is further vertically integrating its own lithium supply. The lithium it will produce at its South Texas facility still may or may not be enough to meet demand. That means it may still need to purchase additional lithium from existing producers. On one side of the coin, Tesla would be a competitor because that would mean EnergyX has one less eventual customer to supply lithium to. On the other side, Tesla really wouldn’t be a competitor because it probably would not sell lithium produced at its plant to anyone else.
EnergyX’s mission is to advance the global renewable energy transition. That’s why we have developed a radical new approach to lithium extraction and refinery. Everything our team does starts with one goal in mind: Sustainability. Tesla was an early innovator in sustainability with its market-leading electric vehicles (I was actually an early investor in Tesla in 2013 for this very reason). Its stated mission also includes efforts to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. Because both EnergyX and Tesla are actively investing in an electric future, I consider that our work is complementary rather than competitive.
EnergyX’s primary customers are existing lithium producers and resource owners who are looking to implement new technology for production. We work with these customers to provide the most economical lithium extraction process for their resources and create sustainable solutions for battery-grade lithium material products. EnergyX has designed and patented scalable implementation methods to cut costs and produce the lowest-cost lithium in the market. How? EnergyX extracts lithium from brine. Our proprietary direct lithium extraction process, LiTAS™, can complement existing infrastructure (pond infrastructure) if capital has already been spent on those, or replace these evaporation ponds completely for new greenfield plants and operations.
LITHIUM EXTRACTION Methods
As I mentioned, the customer for Tesla’s lithium refining facility will be Tesla itself. In different ways, each company is working to secure a stable and sustainable supply of lithium. By building its lithium refining plant in Texas, Tesla is creating a domestic supply chain to produce the batteries that power its electric vehicles. Batteries are the driving force in the revolution of electric vehicles and also are critical for supporting the storage of growing demand for clean energies like wind and solar. EnergyX is developing solid-state electrolyte battery solutions to increase energy density in battery chemistries. Additionally, through EnergyX’s unique extraction process, we can make Lithium Metal directly from the brine itself and potentially in anode-ready form. In other words, EnergyX is still a potential future supplier of a variety of lithium materials to Tesla. That makes us colleagues rather than competitors.
EnergyX can extract lithium from nearly any type of brine in any part of the world. I believe Tesla gets the raw materials for its lithium plant predominantly from hard rock mining companies. This is different from the brine-based lithium resources EnergyX is focused on. Further, EnergyX’s lithium extraction process is more environmentally sustainable than all other current methods, including hard rock resources. Elements that otherwise would be discarded as waste during the extraction process, such as acids and chemicals, are reused within a closed system, creating a smaller environmental footprint overall. Like EnergyX, Tesla says its facility will be acid-free and will use fewer harmful reagents in its processing.
Before I end, I wanted to share a few more reasons that demonstrate why I believe EnergyX and Tesla should be seen more as collaborators than competitors. Both companies have headquarters in Texas. Both companies are innovating in the energy materials sector. Both are rethinking the lithium refining process with an eye toward reusing rather than discarding byproducts. Both companies are investing in creating opportunities for workers in Texas. And both companies are working to address climate change by advancing the transition to a greener future.