Elon Musk’s plan for the future of energy will require almost half of the world’s supply of Lithium; sustaining that may require the world’s first autonomous trucking fleet to link the Tesla(TSLA) Gigafactory with Albermarle’s(ALB) Chemetall-Foote Lithium Plant, the largest lithium producer in North America.

Tesla’s grand plan for an energy revolution is predicated on high capacity lithium-ion batteries, which power its consumer vehicles, power packs, and soon its autonomous semi trucks. The batteries, which are manufactured from lithium, will come from Tesla’s Gigafactory. Tesla claims that in 2020 when it reaches full capacity, the Nevada facility will double the world production of Lithium ion batteries.

Tesla Gigafactory

Two hundred miles from the Gigafactory sits the Chemetall-Foote Lithium Plant, the largest lithium producer in North America. The plant was acquired by mining conglomerate Albermarle for $6.2 million and around the same time work began on the Gigafactory. Since its acquisition, production has scaled rapidly. The lithium hydroxide produced by the Chemetall-Foote Plant, is the foundation of Tesla’s energy empire. Once extracted, it is shipped by the ton along Nevada’s Interstates. Despite not being fully operational until 2020, the Gigafactory’s insatiable hunger for raw material has forced Tesla to make a deal with the state of Nevada to reroute Interstate 80 and Interstate 50, in order to shave a few miles off of the lithium highway.


With the Gigafactory’s production scheduled to expand until 2020, so too will its reliance on the Chemetall-Foote Plant. This means that Tesla will need to scale its supply chain exponentially. In order to do that they have introduced: Tesla Semi, a heavy duty autonomous cargo truck, currently in development. Early projections estimate that the revolutionary cargo hauler will reach production in the next few years. With production planned for around the time the Gigafactory goes fully online, the Tesla Semi may be the only way to sustain its magnitude of production.  “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport” said Elon Musk. Nevada has already given approval for the testing of fleets of autonomous semi-trucks that will soon feed Tesla’s energy revolution.

Computer rendering of Tesla Semi

12 thoughts on “Tesla Inc’s First Autonomous Trucking Fleet Could Create the Most Important Supply Line in America by 2020

  1. Interesting article. A couple of points though… Tesla’s need to ‘double’ the world’s output of Lithium-ion batteries was based upon projections from late 2013. With the apparent success of the Model ☰ Unveil Part I in late March 2016, they have since increased the projected final output of their Gigafactory and revised their time schedule so that the original ‘maximum’ will be reached in/by 2018. The final Gigafactory will have three times its originally specified output by 2020, enough to supply 1,500,000 vehicles per year.

    Further, Lithium is a rather abundant element, available just about everywhere, and amounts to no more than ‘the salt in the salad’ within the chemical formulation of Lithium-ion battery cells at barely 2% by weight/volume. It is certainly convenient to have Lithium available at mines so close to the Gigafactory, but is not of vast importance.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that a Tesla designed autonomous semi truck will probably look a bit more like the MAN Concept from a few years ago than a Freightliner.


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