Tesla, Indonesia, and the Future of Electric Cars

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Erome - Before going any further, let's talk about batteries first. The battery consists of 3 parts, anode, electrolyte and cathode. Batteries store and distribute energy by moving electrons from one end to the other of the battery. Usually from the negative anode to the positive cathode. The movement of electrons will produce electrical energy which is then used to drive the motor. This process is what makes the electric car run.

It should be noted that batteries for electric cars are not the same as batteries in smartphones. In lithium batteries, the anode is made of graphite and the electrolyte is made of lithium ion. However, the composition of the material for making the cathode varies. For example, on the iPhone the cathode is made of 100% cobalt while on the Tesla Model S the cathode is made of 80% nickel+15% cobalt+5% aluminum (NCA). Elsewhere, some electric cars in China use batteries with cathodes made of nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC).

Why is the cathode important? try to imagine the cathode as a bookshelf filled with ions. The structure must be strong and stable because it must maintain the ions moving back and forth. Without a stable structure, the battery life will be shorter. The cathode costs approximately more than 50% of the total battery manufacturing costs. Of this percentage, 40% is the cost for nickel. So of the total cost of making batteries, nickel contributes approximately 25%.

The use of other materials such as cobalt is stable but also very toxic and the method of obtaining it (mining) is not environmentally friendly. Tesla's target is to completely eliminate the cobalt element from its battery materials. This means that the use of nickel is increasing. The advantage of using nickel is that it is cheaper because there are many reserves in the world. There are also many countries that can carry out nickel refining. However, Tesla also doesn't want to be too dependent on one mineral. As a form of diversification, currently, batteries with a high nickel consumption ratio will only be used in long-range vehicles (for example, Cybertruck models)

Tesla Battery Day

From Elon Musk's presentation at Tesla Battery Day a few weeks ago it is quite clear that nickel is the most important component of electric cars in the future. Tesla wants to dominate the electric car battery market. Tesla needs a company that can produce nickel in a 'clean' and sustainable way . Tesla needs a lot of nickel producers so that nickel prices are also low. Indonesia is one of the owners of the largest nickel reserves in the world. One of the nickel companies that will be of concern in the future is PT Vale Indonesia, Tbk.

Challenges for Indonesia

To be able to produce nickel, a lot of electrical energy is needed. As we know, electricity in Indonesia is mostly generated by coal power plants. Then, to convert minerals into metal, coal is also needed. So imagine how much CO2 is produced to obtain nickel. Of course, it would not be ideal if in order to make an environmentally friendly electric car the process of making the battery damages the environment. Indonesia must be able to create a business climate where nickel companies (and even the entire electric battery industry) become more environmentally friendly. Don't forget that our neighbors, Australia and the Philippines, also have large nickel reserves and they are competing to create an environmentally friendly nickel industry. Can the newly passed Job Creation Law attract battery manufacturing companies to Indonesia while creating an environmentally friendly business climate? Time will tell, after all I haven't finished reading the 900 page document.



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