If you’ve tried to buy a car recently, you’ve noticed a big issue – there’s not a large inventory to choose from. Used car prices have skyrocketed because affordable cars are in high demand. And new car inventories are drastically depleted because there’s an interruption in the supply chain.
Auto manufacturers don’t have access to many of the key parts they need in order to build vehicles and get them delivered to dealerships.
Some of the supply chain interruptions were due to COVID. Some have to do with insufficient supplies of raw materials that range from steel to rubber to thermoplastic resin. And then the supply is low, the costs are high.
Auto manufacturers have been given a challenge: Find a way to circumvent the supply chain interruptions.
Tesla’s Elon Musk has essentially stepped up to say, “Challenge accepted.”
While other manufacturers cry and throw temper tantrums about not having what they need, Musk is looking at alternatives that can be used.
Musk has been talking about the need for the industry to explore more batteries due to the supply chain issues of certain materials. He believes that there is potential in a manganese-based cathode.
Recently, Musk visited the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin, where the first Model Y rolled out of the factory. That’s when some of his employees asked him about the possibility of a graphene-based battery.
It’s a possibility – but there’s a lot of complexity involved with such a battery.
Most in the industry, including Tesla, focus on a nickel-based battery for long-range vehicles and iron-phosphate for short-range vehicles.
“I think there’s an interesting potential for manganese,” he told them – and he’ll be doing a lot more research in the coming months and years to bring it to light.
In 2020, Musk held a Tesla Battery Day where he talked about the technology that goes into making a battery. He explained that “It is relatively straightforward to do a cathode that’s two-third nickel and one-third manganese, which will allow us to make 50% more cell volume with the same amount of nickel.”
Considering that nickel is one of the main materials that are hard to find right now, Tesla may be onto something. It would allow Tesla to overcome some of the supply chain issues so that Tesla dealerships are stocked with cars. And if the other auto manufacturers don’t follow suit with their own innovative ways to deal with the supply chain, their dealership lots could remain relatively empty for the foreseeable future.
Manganese is already used in a cathode by Nissan for their eco-friendly Leaf model.
With the issue of the battery possibly solved, there’s still the issue of the car chip shortage. And try as many manufacturing plants may, they have remained closed because they cannot get their hands on the semiconductors that are used to provide cruise control, calibrate fuel injection, and operate infotainment systems.
A single car may have 3,000 chips inside of it – but the manufacturers of these chips are in China and other parts of the world. And, many of those manufacturers have chosen to focus on chips for smartphones and video games because it’s a more lucrative industry.
While the other manufacturers panic about such a shortage, Musk takes it in stride, saying that it’s a short-term problem. And why does he think that? Because he’s an innovator. If he can’t get the chips where he’s used to getting them, he’ll develop new ones himself.
It’s why Elon Musk is so highly revered by entrepreneurs. He embraces capitalism and understands the importance of innovation. It’s also why the socialists hate him.