Image source: Tesla
By Tom Daly
(Reuters) -China’s Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group Co Ltd said on Tuesday it had signed a deal to supply battery-grade lithium hydroxide to U.S. electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla Inc for the next five years.
Yahua, which is based in southwest China’s Sichuan province, put the total value of the contract, signed by its wholly-owned subsidiary Yaan Lithium, at $630-$880 million over 2021-25, a Shenzhen Stock Exchange filing showed.
Analysts at Daiwa Capital Markets said that value translated into a total lithium hydroxide procurement amount of 63,000-88,000 metric tons, or 12,600-17,600 metric tons per annum.
In May this year, Yahua put a 20,000 metric-tons-per-year lithium hydroxide plant in Yaan city into operation, more than doubling its previous capacity, even as prices languished at multi-year lows amid oversupply and a knock to lithium demand brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tesla, which started delivering the first vehicles from its gigafactory in Shanghai in December last year, already sources lithium – an ingredient in EV batteries – from China’s Ganfeng Lithium, one of the world’s biggest producers of the commodity.
The Yahua deal underscores Tesla’s “huge demand” for battery-grade lithium hydroxide, “particularly in view of the ramp-up of Model Y production” in Shanghai, the Daiwa analysts wrote in a note.
“We expect Ganfeng will continue to be the major if not largest lithium hydroxide supplier of Tesla on the back of this strong demand.”
Tesla last month secured permission to start selling the Model Y sports utility vehicle in China.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by Yilei Sun; editing by Louise Heavens and Barbara Lewis.