Tesla expects rising credits while IRA drives investment

Tesla expects tax credits from the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to be worth $150-250 million per quarter this year to the automaker and increase through the year as its car volumes grow, according to the company’s chief financial officer

Speaking during an investor call on Wednesday January 25, Zach Kirkhorn said the credits would act as a positive incentive for its customers as well as assist with bringing the electric vehicle (EV) and associated battery supply chain to the United States.

“Different products, we think, will get different amounts of credit; the regulations here are still in flux and there continue to be updates, so this is just our best understanding at the moment. But we think [credits will be worth] to the order of $150-250 million per quarter this year and growing over the course of the year as our volumes grow,” Kirkhorn said.

“Part of the work we’re doing and what this package is trying to incentivize, is to move more manufacturing onshore in the United States, which is Tesla’s plan anyway. So, I think we’re pretty well positioned over the coming years to take advantage of this,” he said.

The goal is also to “improve adoption by our customers, so we want to use these incentives to improve affordability as we think about what the price points are in our products going forward,” he added.

The IRA, which was introduced in August, offers a tax credit for the purchase of EVs in which at least 80% of the lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese used in their construction has been extracted and processed in the US, or in a country with which it has a free trade agreement.

The goal is to encourage domestic mining and manufacturing and create more integrated supply chains for EVs, which have typically relied on overseas countries for critical minerals and battery components.

Kirkhorn’s comments come at a time when automotive manufacturers work to improve their eligibility for the credits, which have increasing thresholds for critical minerals sourcing and supply chain manufacturing in the United States.

Tesla has a number of battery supply arrangements with companies like Japan’s Panasonic and South Korea’s LG Energy, but also produces batteries in the US at facilities in Nevada. The company also has several offtake agreements for key raw materials.

The IRA has the potential to attract investment to the US through the addition of mines, battery precursor plants and cell manufacturing capacity, as well create diversified and interlinked supply chains. As automakers meet the criteria for eligibility it will also further incentivize their production of EVs and their raw materials requirements.

Automakers increasingly investing in mining companies for direct access to battery materials

Automakers have themselves started to invest directly in mining companies and projects in a bid to create a more vertically integrated supply chain and control access to raw materials they need.

Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk has made no secret of his desire to lock in supplies of nickel, appealing several times on earnings calls or social media for miners to mine more of the raw material.

More recently, he has been calling for access to lithium processing facilities, a choke point in the battery supply chain.

European leaders are to discuss the IRA in February, with industry participants already calling for the region to develop similar legislation to kick-start investment and ensure competitiveness in the supply chain.

The competitive push to secure access to raw materials has been reflected in prices.

Lithium prices for instance increased sharply in the past two years after bottoming out in 2020, following a revival in demand from the downstream battery sector for EVs.

According to Kirhorn, lithium is the leading inflationary cost among the raw materials used in Tesla’s cars, and the company is looking at how it can improve margins by adapting the materials it uses without impacting reliability.

“We’re not just relying on supply – we’re doing design actions to bring costs down,” he added.

According to Fastmarkets’ analysts, lithium has been in a supply-demand deficit for the past two years and is expected to reach a 14,300-tonne deficit in 2023.

Keep up to date with the latest news and insights in the lithium market by visiting our dedicated lithium page.

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