Tuesday, May 23, 2023

"New Tesla low-voltage system a 'big deal' for copper, says Musk" (TSLA)

Two items of import that came out of last week's Tesla Annual Meeting.

Probably the strategically more important is the return to Tesla of co-founder and former Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel as a member of the board of directors. Straubel had departed Tesla in 2019 to found battery recycler Redwood Materials, now up and running and valued at $4 billion or so.

The other thing to note is the headliner from Mining.com:

In front of an audience of investors, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s presentation was full of optimism during the 2023 Tesla Shareholder Meeting.

Musk said the company is progressing to achieve 20 million cars produced per year (In 2022, Tesla built 1.37 million), promised camera monitoring to ensure that children do not work in cobalt mines in Africa, and demanded more investment in lithium refineries.

In a moment that went almost unnoticed by the audience, however, Musk mentioned a change that could impact Tesla’s demand for copper.

He confirmed the automaker is switching its models’ low-voltage system from 12 volts to 48 volts.

Tesla says that starting with the Cybertruck (slated to be released this year), the Optimus robot, and all future electric vehicles, the 48V low-voltage system will be used.
“Cars have been operating with 12V batteries for basically about a century, so for the first time in I think over a hundred years we’re actually going to change from 12V outside of the drivetrain to a 48V architecture,” said Musk.

The automotive industry moved from 6V to 12V in the 1960s. Some smaller vehicles still use 6V, while larger vehicles use 24V.

In traditional 12V systems, wiring and components must be larger and heavier to handle high electrical loads. With a 48V system, Tesla expects a reduction in battery weight and cost savings. As a result, it could also result in less copper used in manufacturing.

“First approximation, that means we need only about a quarter as much copper in the car as would be needed for a 12V battery, so that’s a big deal because people often worry about whether there is enough copper,” Musk said. “Yes, there is.”....


Our readers may recall January 25's post "Copper: Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) Earnings and Conference Call Slide Deck (plus Elon Musk does a fact check)" which used this as part of the outro:

Regarding Mr. Straubel, as we mentioned in 2021's "Watch Out Umicore: Ford partners with battery recycling and materials startup Redwood Materials":

Straubel was more than just Chief Technical Officer at Tesla. He was part of the company's 
founding team and more than anyone got the batteries and gigafactory into mass production.
Another of our other mentions:
Battery Recycling: "Redwood Materials says it wins $2 bln DOE loan for EV materials plant"