Tesla Broke Ground on Its Lithium Refinery in Texas, but the Cybertruck Stole the Show

Tesla broke ground on its lithium refinery in Texas 8 photos
Photo: Tesla | Edited
Tesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla Cybertruck at the groundbreaking ceremonyTesla's lithium refinery groundbreaking ceremony
Elon Musk once said that Tesla must own the whole battery supply chain from mine to pack. Tesla gets much closer to fulfilling this with the groundbreaking of its first in-house Lithium refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Still, the ceremony was hijacked after Elon Musk arrived in the Cybertruck, and everyone kept talking about its accessories.
Last September, rumors surfaced about Tesla's plans to build its first lithium refinery in the US to benefit from the IRA incentives. Months later, Tesla marked the territory at Corpus Christi in South Texas and started recruiting personnel. According to filings discovered back then, Tesla will run a battery-grade lithium hydroxide refining facility to process, refine and manufacture materials needed for its battery production. Tesla wants to invest $375 million in the lithium refinery, with 250 jobs during construction and 165 when it's up and running.

The refinery will process enough battery materials to manufacture 50 GWh of batteries. This is enough for one million electric vehicles, making it one of the largest lithium refineries in the world. The construction will finish next year, with commercial production planned for 2025. The refinery will use a new technology that prioritizes the elimination of sodium sulfate, a challenging refinery byproduct.

Instead, the facility will have a combination of sand and calcium carbonate as a byproduct. This is a viable additive for construction materials. In time, Tesla's Corpus Christi facility will process other intermediate lithium feedstocks, including those from recycled batteries and manufacturing scrap. However interesting all these details are, nobody watching the groundbreaking ceremony saw anything beyond the Cybertruck that Musk descended from and the "cyber-shovels" used during the ceremony.

The shovels may have been the show's real star, arriving at the scene attached to a dope rack on the Cybertruck. This opened a discussion about Cybertruck's accessory ecosystem. The rack was unanimously praised, blending perfectly into Cybertruck's design. Drew Baglino, present at the ceremony, explained that the rack and the shovels were custom-made for the ceremony. Baglino confirmed previous rumors that Tesla is working on several Cybertruck accessories.

During the 2022 Investor Day, we learned that Tesla has an in-house team developing the Cybertruck accessory ecosystem. The electric pickup features a 48-volt electrical system, which means everything electrical will not work on it. Tesla must jumpstart the accessory market until third-party suppliers take over. Still, we haven't seen any Cybertruck accessory appearing in the real world.

The groundbreaking ceremony was the first time we could see accessories designed and produced by Tesla for the Cybertruck. Most probably, neither the rack nor the cyber-shovels will make it into production. However, considering the feedback, this would be a mistake. Elon Musk confirmed the Cybertruck has "lots of mounting points" to allow third-party accessories to attach to the Cybertruck.

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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