Mar 27

US raw battery materials may go to Tesla Gigafactory

 

By Phillippe Crowe

Tesla’s gigafactory has echoes in the political spheres, but is also creating waves in the battery manufacturing and the mining industries.

American Manganese Inc., a company mining in Arizona raw materials needed for EV batteries, added its views by stating where they would like to see raw materials sourced.

668xNxAmerican_Manganese_Arizona-668.jpg.pagespeed.ic.qJc35ND6h9
 

According to the mining company, Tesla’s gigafactory sparks new interest for secure lithium ion battery raw material sources.

American Manganese describes itself as a diversified specialty and critical metal company focusing on potentially becoming the lowest cost producer of electrolytic manganese products from its Arizona Manganese Project (pictured).

“The recent (Feb. 26, 2014) announcement by Tesla Motors of the imminent construction of a Lithium Ion Battery Gigafactory has raised the bar for electric vehicle production,” said Larry W. Reaugh, president and chief executive officer of American Manganese Inc. “Initial production from the Gigafactory is scheduled for 2017, and full production scheduled for 2020. At full capacity, the facility would manufacture as many lithium ion batteries as the 2013 total world production.”

Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas are vying to host the manufacturing facility, with  Arizona being the most aggressive thus far, as proposed bill 2123 in the state legislature would legalize direct sales of Tesla electric cars within the state.

Tucson Arizona (Pima County) has submitted a formal proposal to Tesla to become the host site.

Another communication from Mohave County Economic Development to Tesla referred to American Manganese’s Artillery Peak Manganese Project as an additional incentive to locate in Mohave County.

American Manganese said it has a patented hydrometallurgical process for the commercial production of Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM), Electrolytic Manganese Dioxide (EMD), and Chemical Manganese Dioxide (CMD) from manganese resources.

EMD and CMD are used in dry cell and rechargeable batteries.

Lithium Manganese Dioxide (LMD) rechargeable batteries, also known as spinel, are currently being used in the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf electric vehicles.

American Manganese declared it successfully produced rechargeable lithium ion battery prototypes utilizing high purity CMD from their Artillery Peak manganese resource in late 2012. CMD eliminates the use of expensive electroplating cells and high electricity costs.

“It is my belief that Tesla’s project is concrete evidence of the growth and viability of the electric car market, resulting in greater demand for lithium ion batteries,” said Reaugh. “The need for secure metal feed stocks used to make these batteries; such as Manganese, Cobalt, Lithium, Carbon, and others; will correspondingly increase to meet the soaring electric vehicle demand.”

Reading between the lines, it is clear American Manganese Inc. would like to be the company providing raw materials to this upcoming Tesla gigafactory.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 33


  1. 1
    Dave G

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:21 am)

    Most EV advocates seem to be interested in new battery research and development, but the real changes will not occur there. Manufacturing engineering will be the key, not research and development.

    For example, look where we were 10 years ago with flat panel TVs. Back then, a 32″ LCD TV sold for around $3000. Back then, everyone was talking about OLED, DLP, and other new technologies to solve the inherent cost issues with large LCD panels. Today, a 32″ LCD TV sells for around $250, and it didn’t require new technology. As manufacturing processes improved, LCD TVs just got steadily less expensive. There were some technical improvements, but LCD TV technology is basically the same as it was 10 years ago. What changed was how they’re manufactured. That’s where most of the innovation occurred.

    And that’s what I think will happen with EV batteries. Li/Ion costs will come down dramatically over the next 5-10 years. Li/Ion durability and energy density will improve somewhat, but the basic technology will be the same.

    And that’s exactly what Tesla is doing with their Gigafactory. It’s a huge investment in the right direction. Once they’re in charge of manufacturing the cells, they can cost optimize every step of the process. They’ll also be able to tweak the cell size, shape, and specific Li/Ion chemistry to their needs, without the need for new contracts with their suppliers.

    Yes, Asian battery manufacturers have been cost optimizing Li/Ion for years, but its not the same. Cell phone and laptop batteries are small, and they’re a minor portion of the end product cost, so it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of NRE to further optimize unit costs. By contrast, plug-in car batteries are huge, and they account for a major portion of the end product cost, so spending NRE money to optimize unit costs will be key.


  2. 2
    Raymondjram

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:57 am)

    Dave G,

    I agree with most of your post, because I learned about manufacturing and project planning as an EE forty years ago. And I have seen manufacturing progress to lower costs for high intensity LEDs, and now for OLEDs for smartphones and tablets (soon for TV). But I digress about the LCD TV cost ten years ago, because my Vizio 32-inch cost me $599 at Sears seven years ago, not $3,000. I do remember seeing a plasma TV on sale at Pace (now Sam’s) twenty years ago at $4,000 and someone bought it!

    The latest advancements in production is what allows us to change our smartphones yearly. I just read that Samsung has advanced its marketing date for the new Galaxy S5 phone, and it will be offered for pre-sale at Radio Shack and other providers.

    I continue to wish much success for the Tesla Motors battery plant, as it will lower lithium cell production cost and eventually lower EV cost.

    Raymond


  3. 3
    'georgeBower

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (9:23 am)

    This article is very good food for thought.
    please consider the following chart for the discussion. This chart lists the various materials (elements) used in the anode and cathode for different battery chemistries:
    Slide3_zpsabe8f0c4.jpg

    My first thought on this article is that the Tesla Model S batteries don’t use Mn. So I’m wondering if this company American Manganese has actually been contacted by Tesla for a proposal. It doesn’t say that in the article.

    I guess we can SPECULATE that Tesla may be pondering a switch to a battery chemistry that DOES use Mn though. As stated in this article Mn IS used in the Volt and Leaf battery. Mn is a fairly inexpensive material. Ni and Co are where the costs are so once again I’m not sure that this focus on Mn is really a viable thing or not.

    If we want to speculate that American Manganese really HAS been asked to participate I think we could also specualate that Tesla is planning on using NMC as the battery chemistry for the giga plant. The Argonne paper that I wrote an article about seemed to like NMC chemistry and NMC would also give Tesla a less combustible battery as shown in the following chart

    Slide8_zpsb82a66bc.jpg

    Will NMC be the next battery chemistry for Tesla gen 3??

    argonne paper article is here:http://gm-volt.com/2013/11/18/argonne-computer-model-and-implications-for-the-tesla-model-e/


  4. 4
    bobchr

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (9:23 am)

    I believe that further development in the capacity of Ultra-Capacitors to work in Parallel with Li-Ion batteries will need to be done. This will improve regenerative braking efficiency and improve acceleration as well as potential battery life by providing a buffer in charge discharge cycles. This is where I believe Graphene based Ultra-Capacitors on Mylar sheeting will come in , and this still needs further development as well as optimization. The good news is, small scale development can be done on 1/5 scale RC cars and then the design can be scaled up.


  5. 5
    ClarksonCote

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (9:33 am)

    So is electrolytic manganese different than lithium? I’m assuming it is. Is there anywhere in the USA that we can mine Lithium?

    EDIT: Found this: http://www.westernlithium.com/


  6. 6
    volt11

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (9:50 am)

    I very clearly remember shopping in Harvey’s Electronics (now defunct) back around 2002-ish, and the Zenith 50″ plasma was the best value flat screen at $10,000. With performance, resolution, and features that really couldn’t hold a candle to much slimmer, 50″ plasma TV that hangs today on our bedroom wall for $500.

    So what does this have to do with batteries? I think possibly very little. I think we’re more in the TV tube stage of automotive batteries, where tube technology and pricing languished for years if not decades before there was a disruptive shift in technology that eventually made them utterly obsolete. I’m sure manufacturing scale and efficiency will bring costs down, but not to the extent that we saw prices drop on flat screen televisions by 95% over a 10 year period. I’m thinking by the end of the decade battery costs might be halved from today, and the technology won’t be dramatically different from what’s in the Volt. But of course I hope I’m wrong!


  7. 7
    DonC

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:08 am)

    Since most of the cost of batteries are in the raw materials, there are almost no economies of scale in battery production. It’s a very flat production cost curve. This means the idea of “driving down costs” by increasing the size of a battery plant isn’t applicable. In fact, a spike in demand created by a huge plant could in fact increase costs as the cost of raw materials go up. Basically we’re not talking about the cost curve for consumer electronics as much as we are the cost curve for oil or other commodities.

    This is why there is considerable research in finding batteries that use inexpensive materials, like water. The less expensive the materials used in the battery the less expensive the battery.

    Lithium will not be an issue. The amount of lithium used in a cell is small, and lithium is one of the most common elements. Bolvia has mega tons of it but it’s everywhere. In fact you don’t need to mine it, you can get it from water (I believe one US company has a demonstration project).

    The fact that the materials are the primary cost component of batteries is why increasing the energy density is so important. If you can double the energy density that means you have halved the materials needed to make the battery, which means you have essentially halved the cost of the battery.


  8. 8
    DonC

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:13 am)

    ‘georgeBower: The Argonne paper that I wrote an article about seemed to like NMC chemistry and NMC would also give Tesla a less combustible battery as shown in the following chart

    GM gave up all of its licensing rights that it had acquired from Argonne. It didn’t have to do that. Given that GM has to my knowledge has one of the biggest battery testing facilities around, that suggests to me that the testing points in a different direction.


  9. 9
    Mark Z

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:13 am)

    I am pleased that Arizona is moving positively while New Jersey is moving negatively in the EV industry. If electrodes could be attached to their state capitals, the United States could become one large battery. Maybe we will see it happen in a political cartoon.


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    nasaman

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:38 am)

    OT and a worthwhile little break from this serious lithium battery discussion…

    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIy6h5vIO18&feature=youtu.be and skip to 8:35 to watch Scarlett Johansson arrive in a black Volt at the Captain America 2 premiere. You’ll luv BOTH of ‘em!

    PS: The black ‘Vette’s not too shabby either
    PPS: If that’s not stimulating enough (or is actually too distracting), here’s a classic little video refresher course on the Volt’s battery that might help bring you back to today’s more serious topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9VvHsIlVj8


  11. 11
    'georgeBower

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:44 am)

    DonC:
    Since most of the cost of batteries are in the raw materials, there are almost no economies of scale in battery production.

    Hi DonC
    Have you approached Tesla with this theory?? Their actions seem to suggest that your theory is not valid.

    DonC: GM gave up all of its licensing rights that it had acquired from Argonne.

    The article is about TESLA’s giga plant not about GM.


  12. 12
    ronr64

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:46 am)

    DonC – Did you know that at one point Aluminum was one of the most expensive materials in the world? My point being that material costs can and do come down as well according to demand. Raw materials are essentially free. It is the costs of getting them and processing them to our needs that dictate the costs. Higher demand for some of these more rarer raw materials will spur more investment in getting them and their costs will, over time, come down as well.


  13. 13
    Dave G

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (12:38 pm)

    Mark Z: I am pleased that Arizona is moving positively while New Jersey is moving negatively in the EV industry.

    Chris Christie said the legislative process would be used to decide the Tesla direct sales issue, but when he saw the votes were going against him, he cut a back-room deal to bypass the legislature and ban Tesla sales by himself.

    This is nothing new. Chris Christie has been saying one thing and doing another for years. I’m surprised its taken this long for people to notice.

    But hey, New Jersey has a ton of lawyers, and many like the Model S, so you can bet this isn’t over…


  14. 14
    Dave G

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (12:40 pm)

    ‘georgeBower: The article is about TESLA’s giga plant not about GM.

    Good point. We’re only allowed to talk about Tesla here at gm-volt.com.


  15. 15
    Dave G

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (12:48 pm)

    DonC: Since most of the cost of batteries are in the raw materials, there are almost no economies of scale in battery production.

    As a general question, for any given product, what makes a raw material expensive, or inexpensive?

    It usually boils down to labor and energy costs. Both can be cost optimized.


  16. 16
    Blind Guy

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (1:01 pm)

    The other day I watched a You Tube video on how researchers were able to observe battery degradation on a very precise level in a relatively short time, compared to real world testing. It seemed that the keys to better batteries depended a lot on operating temperatures and how quickly the batteries accumulated (junk) on 1 or both of the batteries poles. I admit I know very little about batteries but finding the right combination formula for the electrolyte, to handle temperature and not coat the poles with junk will certainly increase efficiency and cycle life dramatically. Certainly having automated mass production abilities can lower battery costs but doing it with an improved electrolyte formula will give you a battery that doesn’t degrade nearly as fast with much higher cycle life, which can save you money in replacement cost and improve your range stability. I’m going to assume that the researchers will analyze the (junk) that accumulates on the battery poles to find-out what chemical reaction is creating this crud in the first place and change the electrolyte formula accordingly. I would think that the purity of the chemicals used in batteries like this would need to be as pure as possible for the best performance. So I trust U.S. processing of these chemicals more than I would of some other countries JMO.


  17. 17
    AZM-VOLT

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (1:07 pm)

    I think it boils down to consumer demand. Like with cordless drills at home depot ,ni-cad drills did not go down in price until li-ion came on the scene . when lithium-air battery powered drills come out or whatever battery tech is next I think li-ion drills will be discounted at that time..so I side with GM in battery development and surprised at Tesla’s Gigafactory .


  18. 18
    DonC

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (1:24 pm)

    ronr64: Did you know that at one point Aluminum was one of the most expensive materials in the world? My point being that material costs can and do come down as well according to demand.

    Aluminum actually makes my point. Aluminum ore has always been very cheap. It’s everywhere. Refined aluminum was very expensive because it was difficult to separate it from the non-metallic ore. So aluminum is a great example of what can do when the raw material cost is a very small part of the production costs. It’s the opposite of what we see in battery costs.

    ‘georgeBower: Have you approached Tesla with this theory?? Their actions seem to suggest that your theory is not valid.

    All Tesla has said is that they expect a 30% reduction in the costs of the battery packs by the first year of mass production, which is maybe 2018. Big deal. I suspect GM is driving the costs of the pack down faster than that (the pack is more than the cells).

    The two things to keep in mind when talking about the proposed battery facility are that (a) if you can convince people to give you money sans interest (equity, government grants) to do things then your risk is non-existent; and (b) Tesla has never hit a price or date target. Ever. In this regard, Tesla makes very clear that there are no guarantees: “Certain statements in this communication, including statements regarding the Tesla Gigafactory and its development plans, production capacity, cost savings, costs, timeline and vehicle production estimates, are “forward-looking statements” that are subject to risks and uncertainties.”

    I understand why Tesla wants the facility. It doesn’t have the purchasing clout to get the cells it needs otherwise. But Tesla isn’t really promising cost reductions beyond the historical rate, which are about 8% per year.

    Also note that in absolute dollar terms this is not a lot of money. According to Tesla their current cell costs are under $240/kWh. Reducing that by 30% saves you $80/kWh. Way better than a poke in the eye but huge savings given the total price of the vehicle.

    Finally, I doubt they’re even expecting this type of savings for the cells. My guess is that they’re looking at cost savings in the power electronics. When talking about the cost savings Tesla talks about cost reduction in the pack not the cells. Big difference. The power electronics are maybe 30% of the cost of the pack and their costs can be driven down substantially. So halving the cost of the electronics would bring the pack cost down by 15% without any decrease in cell cost.

    ‘georgeBower: The article is about TESLA’s giga plant not about GM.

    My point is that GM has walked from the Argonne NMC technology for which it already paid licensing fees. If you think GM knows what it’s doing then you have to conclude that the NMC technology isn’t all that terrific.


  19. 19
    Sean

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (2:55 pm)

    Dave G I have to agree but I don’t know everything why an EV, PHEV, or how an EREV is made.

    I would like to know more about them but don’t get too technical about it as I’m not really good with complex math especially chemistry.

    But my big wish is I hope that battery prices will go down in the future so that all consumers will finally get a chance to try one of these vehicles out.

    Also who knows I might get a chance when GOOGLE releases there Drive Less Technology by 2018.

    Only time will tell?

    The Future Is Electric Not Hydrogen!


  20. 20
    'georgeBower

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (3:00 pm)

    DonC:

    My point is that GM has walked from the Argonne NMC technology for which it already paid licensing fees. If you think GM knows what it’s doing then you have to conclude that the NMC technology isn’t all that terrific.

    My main point is this:

    This article infers that Tesla will use Mn in their cells.

    Tesla does not now or have they in the past used Mn in their cells.

    NMC is a possible chemistry that Tesla could use in their cells (NMC has Mn in it).

    What Mn cell chemistry do you think that Tesla will go with? (and don’t suggest Volt or Leaf chemistry LMO)

    or is this article all wrong about Mn being used in the giga factory.


  21. 21
    Raymondjram

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (4:24 pm)

    bobchr:
    I believe that further development in the capacity of Ultra-Capacitors to work in Parallel with Li-Ion batteries will need to be done. This will improve regenerative braking efficiency and improve acceleration as well as potential battery life by providing a buffer in charge discharge cycles. This is where I believe Graphene based Ultra-Capacitors on Mylarsheeting will come in , and this still needs further development as well as optimization. The good news is, small scale development can be done on 1/5 scale RC cars and then the design can be scaled up.

    I am presently experimenting with a set of six supercapacitors (at 450 F and 2.7 VDC each) in parallel with four Lithium pouch cells (6.2 Ah and up to 4.2 VDC) to replace the 12 VDC lead-acid starter battery of my Onan 6 KW power generator I have replaced the lead-acid battery twice due to lack of use, so using the supercaps and Lithium packs will hold the charge better, yet can start the gas engine. It is also more expensive but maintenance free!

    Raymond


  22. 22
    bobc

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (6:21 pm)

    Raymondjram,

    That’s pretty good Raymond. I was thinking of something more aggressive being developed though, like in an E-Racing program or on the LeMans circuit, or even an E-Rally circuit.


  23. 23
    Eco_Turbo

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (6:42 pm)

    Raymondjram,

    I applaud the effort Raymond, and the results are very interesting, but using the pull cord would be an even cheaper alternative. 8-)


  24. 24
    Nelson

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (6:53 pm)

    ‘georgeBower,

    If Tesla was going to an Mn cell chemistry investors would have been all over American Manganese Inc. stock.
    Looking at the historic stock price for American Manganese Inc.
    http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=AMYZF+Interactive#symbol=AMYZF;range=5y
    I’m leaning more towards your second assessment of the article.

    NPNS! SBF!
    Vlt#671


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    Mar 27th, 2014 (7:42 pm)

    Nelson:
    ‘georgeBower,

    If Tesla was going to an Mn cell chemistry investors would have been all over American Manganese Inc. stock.
    Looking at the historic stock price for American Manganese Inc.
    http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=AMYZF+Interactive#symbol=AMYZF;range=5y
    I’m leaning more towards your second assessment of the article.

    NPNS! SBF!
    Vlt#671

    Thx Nelson,
    some one finally get’s it.


  26. 26
    `Noel Park

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:32 pm)

    Sorry I missed you today guys. System down all day. I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.

    As to American manganese, “I’m from Missouri”.

    Other than that, “TS”


  27. 27
    key-dawg

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    I hope I get to work some the automation for the Giga factory, exciting stuff.
    (Back to my foo too drink :) )


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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:52 pm)

    key-dawg:
    I hope I get to work some the automation for the Giga factory, exciting stuff.
    (Back to my foo too drink )

    Us too.
    Go kdawg


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    Mar 27th, 2014 (8:52 pm)

    `Noel Park:
    Sorry I missed you today guys.System down all day.I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.

    Just use your smart phone. :)


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    Mar 27th, 2014 (9:52 pm)

    `Noel Park:
    Sorry I missed you today guys.

    Just for your enjoyment:

    fortification against mommy rabbit and mommy bird. LOL
    this took quite a lot of effort.

    first an aluminum strip across green house door so mommy rabbit won’t try to scratch thru the door:

    CAM00202_zps047449b9.jpg

    and also some chicken wire so mommy bird won’t try to build a nest on my back porch fro the rest of her life (and mine too)

    CAM00204_zps85a930a1.jpg


  31. 31
    America1st

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:03 pm)

    GO TESLA, GO VOLT, GO BMW I3, EVERY electric vehicle helping this world get off middle east terrorist funding oil is a huge win for democracy.


  32. 32
    Blind Guy

     

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    Mar 27th, 2014 (10:35 pm)

    OT: Hey George, if you haven’t heard; the Scottsdale Tesla store is scheduling test drives April 5-14. You may have to take it during the middle of the week because they want to keep the weekends for people that are in the market now. Unless the nice lady calls me back next week with an opening on 1 of the 2 weekends we are SOL.


  33. 33
    'georgeBower

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    Mar 28th, 2014 (11:50 am)

    Blind Guy:
    OT:Hey George, if you haven’t heard; the Scottsdale Tesla store is scheduling test drives April 5-14.You may have to take it during the middle of the week because they want to keep the weekends for people that are in the market now.Unless the nice lady calls me back next week with an opening on 1 of the 2 weekends we are SOL.

    Thx Blind Guy.,