Last year, Tesla became the first automaker to exceed a trillion dollars in value, surpassing the combined value of its 10 closest competitors.
But despite billions of dollars of new spending (and promises to spend billions more) from traditional automakers to develop their electric vehicle capabilities, Tesla remains ahead in more than just market cap.
Last year, the Texas-based company was responsible for one in five all-electric vehicles leaving showrooms. The last time such dominance was observed in the days of Model-T.
Despite the emergence of popular cars under $5,000 such as the Wuling Hongguang MINI, the Model 3, which sells for 10 times more in most configurations, is the best-selling electric car in the world. The Model 3 is also No. 1 in Europe, beating its nearest competitor Renault Zoe 2:1. And this is before the opening of the first Tesla plant on the continent.
The dominance is even more noticeable in terms of pure battery power. Tesla accounts for more than a quarter of all passenger car batteries hitting the road last year.
This is also double that of Volkswagen's closest competitor (XETRA: VOW) across all brands of the German company. In fact, last year only the Model 3 consumed as much energy as all Volkswagens (including those built by FAW and SAIC in Chinese joint ventures), Porsches, Audis, Skodas and Seats combined.
The lead is made even more remarkable by the fact that last year the American company shipped more vehicles with LFP batteries than BYD, which is the world's second largest manufacturer of cobalt- and nickel-free powertrains and is credited with much of the achievement in this area of technology.
BYD, backed by Warren Buffett through a 21% stake, has gone all out for LFP by promising to use the technology across its range. In 2021, the company has covered more than 80% of the way, considering the total sales.
When it comes to battery metals, Tesla CEO Elon Musk rightly worries about nickel. Tesla used 27% of the world's battery nickel despite LFP accounting for more than a quarter of the kWh in all of its vehicles sold last year. Tesla still does not sell LFP-powered models in North America.
Despite selling half as many EVs as Tesla due to the lack of LFP in its lineup, Volkswagen has used more cobalt and relatively more metals in its brands. This is partly due to high performance vehicles such as the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron, some of which are equipped with higher nickel content NCM batteries, where cobalt can make up to 20% of the metal mixture.