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This is an unprecedented appeal to mining companies. Elon Musk, the CEO of American automaker Tesla, asks them to produce more nickel for the batteries of its electric vehicles.

The appeal could not be more surprising. It is rare for an end consumer of metals to advertise color in this way, but this is what Elon Musk, during the presentation of Tesla’s results. ” All the mining groups, please mine more nickel, okay », Launched the CEO of the American manufacturer of electric vehicles. ” Wherever you are in the world, please produce more nickel and don’t wait for it to return to the high prices you experienced five years ago. Aim for efficient, obviously environmentally friendly, high volume nickel extraction. Tesla will give you a giant contract over a long period if you produce efficiently and with respect for the environment. »

Nickel still essential for light batteries

For once, it is not cobalt that is at the center of Tesla’s concerns. A month after signing a contract with Glencore to source Congolese cobalt, Tesla is worried about its nickel supply. While there are alternatives, nickel is still a must if you want the vehicle battery to stay small and light, and its charge to last a long time. Especially for commercial vehicles to which Tesla wants to diversify its range.

But stainless steel leads nickel batteries

But the automaker may find it difficult to source this quality of nickel. Since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, global nickel prices have plunged and remain really lagging behind other metals. This does not really encourage the development of new capacities specific to nickel for batteries because the rest of the market for this metal is depressed. And this is the preponderant part: stainless steel, 90% of the use of nickel on the planet. The pandemic has collapsed the demand for cutlery in restaurants. It has plunged the consumption of stainless steel in aeronautics or for oil pipelines. From a nickel deficit last year, the market is now in surplus that it could drag several years in a row.

New units threatened in Indonesia

But it’s not the much purer nickel that Tesla covets for its batteries. The agreement signed by the American manufacturer with Vale for Caledonian nickel of this quality could well be insufficient. However, with the slump in the world nickel market, the new units which were to be assembled in Indonesia are now compromised.