Hong Kong (CNN Business) – BYD, the Warren Buffett-backed Chinese electric carmaker, plans to supply batteries to Tesla “very soon,” a senior executive from the company told a Chinese state-owned broadcaster.
“BYD respects Tesla, and we also admire Tesla,” said Lian Yubo, BYD’s executive vice president, in a video interview with an anchor from CGTN. “We are now good friends with Elon Musk, and we are going to supply him with batteries very soon,” he added.
The video was released by the anchor on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Wednesday.
BYD and Tesla (TSLA) didn’t immediately respond to CNN Business’ requests for comment.
BYD has been making its lithium iron phosphate (LFP) “Blade Batteries” since 2020, for use in its own cars and for sale to other auto makers, such as Toyota (TM).
The company says the blade-shaped battery is thinner and longer than conventional lithium iron cells, and thus can maximize the use of available space within the battery pack. It’s also less likely to catch fire even when it’s severely damaged, according to BYD.
Currently, Tesla uses LFP batteries supplied by Chinese firm CATL in nearly half of its cars. Tesla also uses nickel and cobalt batteries, supplied by LG Energy Solution and Panasonic (PCRFF).
Tesla’s China sales were strong at the start of this year, ranking the carmaker first among pure-electric brands. It delivered 65,814 vehicles from its Shanghai factory in March, with the majority of those sold in the Chinese market. That number was up 85% from a year ago.
But that was before authorities shut down Shanghai for two months to contain the city’s worst Covid outbreak. Tesla’s sales dived 98% in April.
BYD, which is one of the biggest sellers of new energy vehicles in China, wasn’t hit by the country’s sweeping lockdowns. In April, BYD continued to dominate the market, selling a record 106,000 cars.
Analysts have attributed BYD’s resilience in sales to its “vertical integrated supply chain.” The business model has made BYD less vulnerable to supply chain disruptions during China’s Covid lockdowns, while rivals had to cut back production because of chip and battery shortages.
— CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.