Tesla and Saudi Arabia in talks for EV factory with cobalt from DRC on the line, says report


According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Tesla and Saudi Arabia are in early talks about building an electric vehicle factory in the country, and the latter is dangling some cobalt from the DRC as an incentive.

While only sighting “people familiar with the discussions,” the WSJ reports today:

Saudi Arabia is in talks with Tesla about setting up a manufacturing facility there, people familiar with the discussions said, as part of an ambitious push by the kingdom to secure metals needed for electric vehicles and help diversify its economy away from oil.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia invested in Lucid Motors, an EV startup that spun out of Tesla, with a deal for the company to build a factory in the country.

Now it is apparently going after Tesla, and it wouldn’t be the first time.

The Tesla “take private” debacle of 2018 was initiated after Elon Musk had a meeting with the head of the country’s investment fund. Ultimately, Musk decided not to use Saudi Arabia’s money to take Tesla private and dropped the idea.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia is trying to bring Tesla back to the negotiation table by offering rights to some cobalt that it secured in Congo:

Saudi Arabia has been wooing Tesla with the right to purchase certain quantities of metals and minerals the company needs for its EVs from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, some of the people said. The Saudis approached the Congolese government in June about securing assets in the country, which supplies around 70% of the world’s cobalt, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Tesla has been using increasingly less cobalt in its batteries in recent years, but the mineral is still valuable for the production of high-energy-density battery cells.

Electrek’s Take

I’d take this report with a grain of salt. I’m not saying it’s not accurate, but a lot of countries are trying to secure Tesla factories.

“Early talks” could be as simple as WSJ having a Saudi source that confirmed it reached out to Tesla regarding the possibility of a factory in the country.