Tesla, whose founder Elon Musk launched his car into space, said there was very little cobalt in its vehicle batteries ©SpaceX
Tesla, whose founder Elon Musk launched his car into space, said there was very little cobalt in its vehicle batteries ©SpaceX

Tesla expands minerals supply chain for Model 3

31 May 2018

Tesla has doubled the number of suppliers it uses to source minerals over the past year as it ramps up production of its Model 3 electric vehicle.

In its latest conflict mineral report, the manufacturer said it identified 389 suppliers that supply products containing the 3TG metals tungsten, tantalum, tin and gold. More than half of these were new to its supply chain in 2017 as a result of Model 3 production and the integration of Tesla Energy storage products.

Tesla identified 996 unique smelters and refiners producing 3TG minerals in its supply chain through questionnaires sent to tier one suppliers, a reduction on last year that it attributed to a greater awareness by its suppliers of the Responsible Minerals Initiative’s smelter database – of which Tesla is a participant – as well as cleaner data.

The firm acknowledged that it had not yet been able to fully identify the countries of origin of 3TG metals used in the firm’s products, nor the smelters or refiners used to process conflict minerals.

The report, a requirement under US law, also outlined the due diligence processes Tesla took when sourcing cobalt, a conflict mineral that is used in battery production.

The firm claimed there was “very little cobalt” in its batteries compared to the rest of the industry. “On a relative basis, cobalt simply is not that significant to the composition of Tesla’s battery cells,” it said.

Nonetheless the firm said it had visited many of the cobalt mines and processing plants that support its supply chain, as well as potential future suppliers, to discuss major risks and risk mitigation. “To date, we have not uncovered human rights abuses in our supply chains,” it said.

Tesla described its supply chain as a “unique hybrid of the traditional automotive and high-tech industries”.

“Many of our tier one suppliers do not purchase all their raw materials directly and instead obtain them from downstream suppliers and sub-suppliers. Therefore, reliably determining the origins is difficult,” it said.

As the automotive industry moves towards producing more electric vehicles, it has been put under increasing pressure to ensure the cobalt it sources does not come from conflict areas. Nearly half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, of which 20% is thought to be mined by hand.

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