Breakdown of Raw Materials in Tesla Batteries

As electric vehicle enthusiasts, it’s always nice to know that we are actively contributing to driving down greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is an environmental cost to manufacturing EVs that an increasing number of drivers are paying attention to. Namely, the breakdown of raw materials in Tesla batteries and many other EV batteries too.

Promisingly, Tesla is making great strides in the field of battery recycling. However, as demand for electric vehicles grows and the prices of raw materials fluctuate, we can anticipate ongoing debate about how these key minerals are sourced.

So, whether you are concerned about the impact of your Tesla or simply curious to know more about the constituent parts of its power storage, we’ve got you covered.

What Materials Are Needed to Make a Tesla Battery?

Each lithium-ion Tesla battery type shares some factors in common. For example, each battery cell contains a Graphite anode and an electrolyte solution of Lithium salts. However, different battery types vary in the constituent minerals that make up their cathodes.

When we hear “lithium-ion,” it is easy to imagine that this is the dominant material in this battery type. However, Lithium is usually a secondary material by weight. The following high-value raw materials appear inside various Tesla batteries:

  • Graphite
  • Cobalt
  • Lithium
  • Manganese
  • Aluminum
  • Nickel

While Tesla’s 2021 Impact Report provided a great deal of insight into their raw material sourcing practices, we can’t be sure of where they source each raw mineral from. The majority of the world’s graphite is mined in China, while most Cobalt comes from the politically unstable DRC. Most of our Lithium supply is mined in South America, while Manganese and Aluminium are often sourced from Australia and China.

What we can be confident of, however, is that Tesla has been working hard to source their raw materials directly from mining companies so that they can keep tabs on local impacts. The report detailed that the company sources more than 95% of lithium hydroxide, 50% of cobalt, and 30% of nickel directly from nine companies, explaining that this “enables more transparent and traceable supply chains and better environmental and social data.” 

Insights Into Raw Materials In Tesla Batteries

The different Tesla batteries feature cathodes with varying material makeups.

The 18650-type battery is a Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminum (NCA) lithium-ion battery, meaning that these are the materials used to produce its cathodes.

The 2170-type battery is either a NCA or a Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese (NCM) battery, depending on where it is manufactured.

The 4680-type battery is also NCM, while the more recent prismatic-type batteries feature a Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LFP) cathode.

Tesla Battery Cathode Types

Battery Type18650-type2170-type4680-typePrismatic-type
Associated ModelsRoadster, Model S, Model XModel 3, Model YModel Y, CybertruckModel 3, Model Y

A 2016 report from Elektrek detailed some of the raw material volumes that go into a Model S Tesla’s 18650-type 453 kilogram battery. They shared that this vehicle’s battery pack holds 54 kilograms of Graphite, and some 63 kilograms of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE), while the cathodes are 80% Nickel. 

Does Tesla Recycle Its Batteries?

Because of the high impact of mining, Tesla has established a dedicated responsible sourcing program for three priority minerals, Cobalt, Nickel, and Lithium. These have been classified as critical minerals for establishing a low-carbon economy by the United States, European Union, and Canadian governments. However, the company takes this careful use of resources further with an in-house recycling scheme.

The 2021 Impact Report revealed that Tesla is now managing to reclaim and reuse 92% of materials from defunct EV batteries at its Nevada Gigafactory. And the brand’s recently launched lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) prismatic-type batteries—which feature in newer Model 3 and Model Y vehicles—do not require Cobalt or Nickel to manufacture.

That’s the current overview of the breakdown of raw materials in Tesla batteries. No doubt, the brand will continue to lead the way as the world moves towards an increasingly carbon-neutral future.