Back in August of 2021, we compared NCA (lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide) batteries with LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries - "Tesla's LFP (iron) batteries compared. Which one should you buy?". NCA batteries had been the standard for all Tesla models in the USA, but Tesla’s plans to switch to LFP in Model 3s and Model Ys prompted that article. Tesla even offered more rapid delivery to customers waiting for the cars they had on order if they decided to get their car with LFP batteries.
A nickel mine in Indonesia
There are trade-offs between these two battery types in terms of weight, range, consequences of carrying a full charge, regenerative braking, and cold weather behavior which are all discussed in the column mentioned above. These are all valid considerations, but working from the assumption that a prime motivation of most people buying an electric car is to promote a healthy environment and a healthier planet (by cutting CO2 emissions), it should also be mentioned that these two battery chemistries have vastly different implications for the environment. Crucially, NCA batteries are built with a lot of nickel (about 18 kg in a Tesla) whereas LFP batteries have none. But high demand for nickel for Teslas (and many other electric vehicle models) is accelerating strip-mining in Indonesia and the Philippines. Mining is one thing, but strip mining is more problematic.
Strip mining on tropical islands in Southeast Asia is especially harmful because these are centers of biodiversity with large numbers of unique species of plants and animals, many of which are endangered - some critically so. Unlike forest clearing, where the land retains some value for agricultural production, strip mining obliterates what is there and it will likely be decades, if not centuries, before such areas are productive again. When not rainforests, this strip mining is destroying agricultural land. Plus, Southeast Asia has high rainfall, so once the land is laid bare, erosion carries large amounts of sediment onto nearby coral reefs.
Details matter, however, and in this case it should be pointed out that nickel is mined from two sources - laterite and sulfide. Laterite deposits (as in Indonesia and the Philippines) are formed by the weathering of ultramafic bedrock in areas of high seasonal rainfall, along ridges and mountain shoulders. Through leaching, nickel accumulates 10-25 m below the surface and the only way to get at it is to clear off the top 10 m and everything living there.
In contrast, sulfide deposits are in the bedrock and nickel is extracted by hard-rock mining, sometimes near the surface, but often far underground. This distinction is important for electric vehicles because sulfide deposits are smelted into the highly pure nickel which is required for batteries. When laterite nickel is smelted, the lower purity nickel primarily goes to other uses, such as stainless steel. However, if laterite nickel is processed by High Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL), nickel of sufficient purity for batteries is produced, but at present not very much is produced this way. Of the other uses of nickel besides for batteries, some processes also need high purity nickel, but some can use either high or lower purity nickel. Another important point is that there are not likely prospects for increased production of sulfide nickel, whereas there are extensive areas available for mining laterite nickel.
This may all seem convoluted, but what this all means is 1) as consumption of sulfide nickel for batteries grows with the expansion of the electric vehicle market, this will take up more and more of available sulfide supplies; 2) processes which can use either will hence shift to laterite nickel. Thus, while some may point out that electric vehicle batteries, for the most part, do not use laterite nickel and hence are not the cause of the expanding strip-mining occurring in Indonesia and the Philippines (and in a few other places such as Venezuela and Brazil), it is nevertheless true that additional demand for laterite nickel is a consequence of vehicle batteries taking an increasingly large portion of the available sulfide nickel.
Despite much press coverage last year, Tesla's transition to LFP batteries has only made it to the Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive model (in the USA). Other models may get LFP batteries in the future, as they have in Europe. So, buying a Tesla is a great way to contribute to the decarbonization of your personal transportation, but to avoid the harmful impacts of high-nickel battery chemistries, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is the best, even if you have to be selective as to which model you get.
Cliff Rice is a retired wildlife biologist, nickel nerd, and guitar player. He has written a song about responsible sourcing of EV battery materials entitled "So You Want an Electric Car?".
Tesla is a regular in the news cycle; if it's not about the vehicle, it's about the CEO. It's no secret Tesla stock is down, and investors who are long on the stock have lost a considerable amount over the past month. One of those investors is Gary Black, the Future Fund managing partner, who said in August that Tesla is the fund's largest position. Black is calling on Tesla to hire a public relations department to inform the media and the public of the positives around the brand.
Oddly enough, at the shareholders' event in August, Black said, "the thing we worry about most is not PR; it's succession." Now it seems that is what Black is worried about. He recently tweeted: People can't complain about the media if TSLA refuses to correct articles that are wrong, or worse, won't maintain relationships with TSLA beat reporters and editors so they can get TSLA's POV out when needed. Strong PR will be needed to sell FSD safety. Think long-term.
Black's stance may be understandable to some, especially those who have watched their trading account shrink, but it's implausible because Tesla doesn't need a PR department.
Musk and the Mainstream Media Don't Mix
Musk is currently using his new company to hold mainstream media accountable. In case you missed it, he's releasing the Twitter Files, a detailed report backed up with real emails to show suppression of true stories.
The Tesla CEO also regularly calls out media outlets for false stories, misleading headlines and biased reporting. Musk will not hire a team to try to steer newsrooms, something he has so little respect for, and it's unlikely legacy media outlets will listen.
Media Biased Against Tesla
Bad news generates more views and clicks and keeps the advertisers paying. Even when the news isn't bad, take, for example, a recent Reliability Report by Consumer Reports. Most, if not all, mainstream media declared Tesla as the terrible one, even though Tesla moved up four spots from the previous year. It was hard to find a mention of the manufacturers that scored less. Those included Chevrolet, GMC, Volkswagen, Jeep, and Mercedes Benz. Yes, the expensive luxury brand was dead last in reliability. That is a story.
Reporters also picked up that electric vehicles scored low for reliability. Consumer Reports said it was because EVs are new on the market. However, scoring even lower were full-sized pickups. Those have been on the market for quite a bit longer.
Tesla, which also has not spent a dime on advertising, disbanded its public relations department in 2020. That's unheard of by a company its size, especially in the automotive sector. However, Tesla and Elon have something much better — you are reading it right now. Not a Tesla App is one of several blog sites that publish news about Tesla daily. Many of these websites have writers who own Teslas. The stories are much more accurate, positive and just plain better than anything readers will find in the mainstream. Who says bias must be negative?
Word of Mouth Advertising
Now add hundreds, maybe even thousands of loyal enthusiasts who defend and promote Tesla on social media platforms. Next, throw into the mix the hundreds of thousands of Tesla owners who quite often are spokespeople for the company whenever they get out of the car. I've been sure to add 10 minutes of travel time to my drives because I'm likely to get asked some questions at the grocery store or car wash.
This kind of advertising money cannot buy, and it's the kind of positive publicity media will not share. So while Black's concerns are legitimate, a PR department is not the solution. Instead, Tesla needs to keep doing what it's been doing and let the product, its fans and the Tesla-inspired websites do the rest.
Tesla is getting ready to introduce WiFi garage door support to their vehicles through MyQ.
Since our article yesterday additional details have emerged about how MyQ will operate, which vehicles will be supported and whether there will be a cost to use the service. This information is based on a page that appeared briefly on MyQ's website but has since been removed.
MyQ's website stated that support for their garage door openers would be coming to the Model 3 and Model Y. While this makes a lot of sense because those vehicles don't include a HomeLink module, we'd be surprised if Tesla didn't also add support for the Model S and Model X.
Let's get cost out of the way. Although MyQ does not charge a fee today to remotely open and close their garage doors, they do plan on charging a fee to use their devices in vehicles. This could be looked at similarly to how some services are free to use on a PC but require a subscription to use on your mobile phone.
The price posted on MyQ's website was a five-year plan for $179, which is still cheaper than Tesla's $350 installation cost for HomeLink.
Unfortunately, this removes a big benefit we thought MyQ would have over buying a HomeLink module for the Model 3 or Model Y. For Model S and Model X owners who already have HomeLink included in their vehicles, it may not make as much sense.
However, MyQ does provide some advantages over HomeLink.
The good news is that MyQ integration will be very similar to HomeLink, and better in some ways. What appears to be a rendering of the feature working in a Tesla was also posted to their website which shows off a screen very similar to HomeLink.
On the MyQ settings screen, you'll have a list of supported devices on the left side, such as garage doors, gates and possibly lights, but we haven't see any evidence of the latter yet.
On the right side, you'll see options pertaining to the device selected, such as its current state, whether the garage door should auto-open or close and the distance when the device should be triggered.
You'll also be able to have the vehicle fold in its mirrors when reaching the target location.
If you've used HomeLink, this should all look very familiar since it's almost exactly the same. However, there are a couple of differences that give the advantage to MyQ.
The first is that MyQ is a smarter system and it knows the state of your garage door. So if you're arriving home and the garage door is already open, it won't try to close it on you.
The other advantage is distance. Since MyQ works over the internet you'll be able to trigger the garage door or gate from further down the driveway, giving the door plenty of time to fully open before you arrive.
MyQ supports an array of devices, but it waits to be seen whether there will be support for these additional devices such as lights and door locks.
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