Korea’s LG Chem has broken ground on a nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminium cathode materials facility on a 170 hectare site in Clarksville, Tennessee. Starting in 2026, this will supply 60,000 tonnes/year of battery materials, enough for about 600,000 electric vehicles, and will be the largest of its type in the US.
Following on from other recent announcements in the field, Umicore has announced a 5-50, €3 billion joint venture to supply precursor and cathode material production to the European battery cell factories of PowerCo, the Volkswagen Group’s battery company. No site has yet been chosen.
This will begin in 2025 by supplying PowerCo’s factory in Salzgitter. They aim to reach 40 GWh cell/year capacity in 2026 and to quadruple that to 160 by 2030, depending on market and demand development. This would be equivalent to what is needed to power about 2.2 million full electric vehicles.
Livent has signed a sourcing agreement, under which it will supply General Motors (GM) with battery-grade lithium hydroxide for six years from 2025. GM intends to use this in its battery cathodes, which will power electric vehicles such as the recently revealed Chevrolet Blazer EV (pictured), Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq.
Following a detailed review, Johnson Matthey has concluded that the potential returns from its Battery Materials business “will not be adequate to justify further investment”. It will therefore seek to sell all or parts of the business.
Although demand has been growing strongly, the company said, “so is competition from alternative technologies and other manufacturers” and the market is becoming commoditised. JM had explored partnerships in the field but found that “our capital intensity is too high compared with other more established large-scale, low-cost producers”.
Umicore has signed separate five-year, renewable lithium supply agreements with two companies, Ganfeng Lithium of Jiangxi, China, and Vulcan Energy Resources of Karlsruhe, Germany. Both are integral to its cathode business and to its own environmental commitment.
The agreement with Ganfeng Lithium will come into effect in 2022 and will cover a significant part of Umicore’s future lithium requirements in Asia. The lithium is mined from hard-rock deposits in Australia under strict sustainability standards.