Tesla gives more hints about the nature of its plans for a Canadian facility in new lobbyist registry documents filed last month, Electric Autonomy exclusively reveals
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a response from the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade received after publication.
Tesla is seeking “opportunities for industrial facility, mineral extraction” in Ontario, per new documents filed with the Ontario government, Electric Autonomy can report.
The lobbyist registry, updated in April, indicates that the mineral-hungry automaker is interested in taking more control over its electric vehicle battery supply chain and Ontario is a preferred location.
One of the goals for Tesla’s latest filing reads, in part, “Work to identify opportunities for industrial facility, mineral extraction and processing project permitting reforms…while working with government to identify incentives to further increase the attractiveness of Ontario.”
The clarity on Tesla’s Ontario intentions comes on the heels of a blockbuster announcement between the province and Volkswagen. In April, the German-based automaker revealed it will build a $7-billion factory in St. Thomas, Ont. and will receive $13 billion in subsidies from the provincial and federal governments to do so.
Electric Autonomy contacted Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for comment on conversations occurring with Tesla about mineral extraction and processing facilities. In response, an ISED spokesperson said: “Everyone knows we are talking to everyone. We don’t have anything to add beyond that.”
Electric Autonomy also contacted Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade about the filing.
“By reducing the cost of doing business by $8 billion annually, Ontario has seen unprecedented levels of investment into the province, including $25 billion in auto and EVs in the past two and a half years,” said Vanessa De Matteis, press secretary for minister of Economic Development, Victor Fedeli, in an emailed statement to Electric Autonomy.
“While the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade does not discuss economic prospects publicly, our government continues to seek out opportunities to promote job growth and ensure Ontario remains a competitive jurisdiction.”
Speculation about Tesla’s “Gigafactory Ontario” has been at a fever pitch for months.
In August 2022, Electric Autonomy exclusively reported that Tesla was lobbying the Ontario government regarding “advanced manufacturing facilities.”
Then, in September, Tesla hired a former battery mineral advisor to the Ontario government to be its new Critical Minerals & Supply Chain Policy Advisor.
Since then several cross-border trips between high-ranking Ontario officials and Tesla representatives have happened. The most notable include a Tesla Fremont factory visit by ISED minister François-Philippe Champagne, a March 2023 trade mission to Texas by Fedeli that included a meeting with Tesla and confidential visits (requiring signed non-disclosure agreements, multiple sources told Electric Autonomy) by Tesla to Sudbury, Ont.
In total, between federal government officials and Tesla lobbyists, there have been 13 meetings in six months.
Ontario government officials do not have to publicly disclose the frequency or dates of their meetings with lobbyists.
Ontario’s battery minerals
Canada is one of the few places in the world where nearly all of the critical battery minerals can be found. Yet despite this abundance, the country has lagged in building up the refining and processing infrastructure to add value.
Since the pivot to electric vehicles, the provincial and federal governments have doubled down on their efforts to bring the EV battery supply chain back to Ontario and Quebec.
Of particular significance to Tesla are the minerals nickel and lithium. Both minerals (lithium can also be a by-product) feature heavily in Tesla’s lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) battery chemistries.
Already, in March 2022, Tesla inked a deal with Vale to secure a supply of Canadian nickel.
And, earlier this year, Tesla amended an existing deal with Piedmont Lithium in Quebec. Under the new terms Piedmont will deliver 125,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate from its North American Lithium mine to the automaker between 2023-2025.
By taking an active role in mineral extraction in Canada, Tesla would further vertically integrate its supply chain and, likely, reduce manufacturing costs.