The impending arrival of Tesla, Elon Musk’s renowned electric vehicle brand, to Mexico’s automotive industry could prove to be a catalyst for electric cars and the country’s renewable energy sector. Tesla’s utilization of lithium in its batteries, coupled with the Mexican government’s recent approval for the exploitation of this mineral, opens up significant economic and environmental opportunities for the nation.
While the construction of Tesla’s gigafactory in Nuevo Leon is still two years away, speculation suggests that it will be situated in the municipality of Santa Catarina, close to the bustling city of Monterrey. Elon Musk has expressed optimism about his company’s prospects in Mexico through his social media accounts, signaling a promising future for Tesla’s presence in the country.
Tesla’s distinguishing feature among low carbon dioxide (CO2) emission vehicle producers lies in its fully autonomous driving computer and lithium-based batteries. Musk foresees a rapid transition from lead batteries to lithium, which will enhance battery life and enable the production of more compact and efficient models.
The emerging lithium industry in Mexico stands to benefit significantly from Tesla’s venture into the country. During Investor Day 2023, Musk announced that the Nuevo León gigafactory would rely on clean energy for the final product and throughout the manufacturing process, further solidifying Tesla’s commitment to sustainability. Moreover, Tesla is renowned for its production of solar panels, further underscoring its dedication to clean energy.
According to the Ministry of Economy’s profile on lithium, the mineral’s primary applications include energy sources for cell phones and electric cars, given its high-performance characteristics compared to conventional batteries. Utilizing lithium batteries in vehicles could lead to longer lifespans, constant voltage, higher energy density, reduced weight, high capacity operation, and improved performance at low temperatures, making them an eco-friendly alternative in Mexico, where vehicles contribute almost 20% of CO2 emissions.
The General Directorate of Mining Development highlights that lithium’s role in North America will be indispensable, and the Mexican government has actively promoted the transition from combustion engines to environmentally friendly transportation options.
Tesla’s current usage of lithium predominantly focuses on the Model 3, with smaller applications in the Model Y, Model S, and Model X. Although the mineral constitutes only about 1.5% of the total battery weight, Tesla purchases significantly more lithium than its competitors, such as Volkswagen.
Beyond electric vehicles and electronic devices, lithium has extensive applications in various industries, including pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, aerospace, and even the reduction of pollution in aluminum manufacturing.
The governor of Nuevo León, Samuel García, envisions Tesla’s presence as the foundation for a comprehensive ecosystem in electromobility, aerospace, and telecommunications, ultimately spearheading a cleaner, sustainable future.
The Tesla gigafactory is expected to be the largest owned by the company globally, representing a colossal investment of USD 5 billion. While the exact models to be manufactured in Mexico remain undisclosed, one of the most anticipated is the Model 3, featuring advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for autonomous driving.
Tesla’s main target market lies in North America, where its range of vehicles caters to varying budgets. The Model 3, priced at 1,259,000 pesos, provides an economical entry point to Tesla’s lineup, while the luxurious Model S commands a price tag of 2,629,000 pesos. The cars boast impressive driving ranges of up to 602 kilometers on a full battery charge.
With Tesla’s anticipated demand for lithium and its investment in Mexico, the country’s economy stands to gain a substantial boost. Simultaneously, the automaker’s presence could pave the way for Mexico’s transition to a renewable energy-based transportation system, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future for the nation.
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