Last month, it was reported that Indonesia’s discussions with Tesla to build a factory in the archipelago had fallen through, as the latter was only interested in building batteries for energy storage systems (i.e. its Powerwall) instead of its famed electric vehicles. Now, Jakarta Globe reports that a delegation from the republic has restarted talks with Tesla boss Elon Musk.

The group, which included coordinating minister of economic affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and advisory council chairman of the Indonesia Chamber of Trade and Industry (Kadin) Anindya Bakrie, met with Musk at Tesla’s new Gigafactory and headquarters in Austin, Texas to convince the company to join Indonesia’s burgeoning nickel and electric vehicle industry. Coincidentally, the trip happened the same day Twitter accepted Musk’s bid to purchase the social media platform for US$44 billion (RM191.7 billion).

“Our intention was to convince Tesla to explore cooperation with Indonesia regarding the supply and processing of nickel as a raw material for making battery cells based on good and sustainable Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) [practices].

“We also presented the G20/B20 program and invited him to join the International Advisory Caucus B20 and attend the B20 event in mid-November,” said Anindya on social media. Indonesia will host the G20 summit in November, and Business 20 (B20) is the G20’s business engagement group.

Pandu Sjahrir, Luhut’s nephew and director of coal miner Toba Bara Sejahtra who was also present, said: “Elon is very enthusiastic about discussing Indonesia and the progress of Indonesia’s nickel and electric vehicle industries. Hopefully, this meeting can bring more high technology investments to Indonesia, and Indonesia can become an important part of the global electric vehicle industry supply chain,”

Indonesia has long been pushing for investments in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing, touting its reserves of nickel and cobalt – used in lithium-ion batteries – as well as bauxite which can be turned into aluminium. The country, which has the world’s biggest nickel reserves, wants to build a full supply chain for extracting battery chemicals from the metal rather than simply exporting it.

Hyundai is building new EVs (starting with the Ioniq 5) at its new plant in Cikarang and will also construct a battery cell factory with LG Energy Solutions that will be operational in 2024. This month, the country announced US$15 billion (RM65 billion) worth of investments from China’s Ningbo Contemporary Brunp Lygend (CBL, a subsidiary of CATL) and LG Energy Solutions to develop an EV battery infrastructure.

Reports of potential Tesla involvement first surfaced in October 2020, which led to a meeting that also included Luhut. This was followed by an investment proposal that was made public in February 2021, but there was no follow-up since. The deal was put on the back burner, Jakarta Globe wrote, because the carmaker was “too demanding and refused to meet Indonesia’s terms,” said Luhut last month.