Tesla is a name that will ring a bell for most people nowadays. With the wave of electrical cars making their entry on our roads and any of the other projects that Elon Musk and Tesla are undertaking, it is hard to get around them. But where does the name Tesla come from? The company is named after Nikola Tesla, a Serbo-Croatian engineer who is considered the father of alternating current power transmission and induction motors. Although laymen might be unfamiliar with his work, to electrical engineers he is a household name. Tesla was the inspiration for the name of Tesla Motors, and this historical link between the region and the leading sustainable electric car company has recently re-entered the conversation again.
Tesla Motors may be the future because they run on batteries rather than fossil fuels. Tesla’s cars run on Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries and hold a larger lifespan than any other form of energy storage. Lithium is a chemical element that is used for producing batteries and therefore is a very significant and important element for modern technologies. Although mining has a harmful impact on the environment, compared to fossil fuels, lithium offers a more sustainable and environmental friendly solution. Tesla Motors has joined forces with Canadian physicists to improve the durability of these batteries. They have patented a design that is believed to outperform existing Li-Ion batteries for the purpose of creating a 1-million mile battery pack for long-distance freight shipping or continuous taxi services. According to BloombergNEF, Lithium is expected to grow in significance as the battery demand will rise eightfold in the coming decade.
So what does this mean for the Western Balkans?
In the Bloomberg article, Serbia is estimated to have the largest source of lithium on the continent. An American Geological Survey has claimed that these reserves hold 118 million tonnes of ore that contain 1,8 percent of lithium oxide. Serbia could become an important player in the European (or even worldwide) quest for lithium, as the demand for Li-Ion batteries grows. Mining company, Rio Tinto, has already substantiated plans to exploit lithium. This could boost the Serbian economy as Serbia could potentially compete with Asia, Australia and Bolivia for the extraction, production and refining of lithium.
Nenad Antic, deputy mayor of Vranje beliefs that any project in the region could increase the welfare of the people and raise the living standard. Specifically, Antic claimed that a battery factory would have great benefits for the Serbian population. If the lithium supply is as optimistic as expected, then this could very well be the case.
In 2019, CEO and co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, announced that he would open a Gigafactory in Germany. Currently, the batteries production is done in a factory in Nevada, United States. Tesla Motors would benefit more if the production of the batteries would be closer to the sources and in Europe. Therefore, Tesla would benefit from opening a battery factory close to its stock and Serbia could become the main producer of lithium batteries for the Tesla’s Gigafactory in Germany.
Ironically, Serbia could bring back the Tesla name to its native region.