Livent has opened what will be the first of several major expansions of its operations around the world Bessemer City, North Carolina. The company has increased lithium hydroxide production capacity by 50% to address growing demand for electric vehicle battery materials. The company added aided by long-term growth opportunities and downstream incentives from the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, which encourages use of lithium produced or processed in North America.
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.
Umicore has agreed to develop high-performance catholyte materials for solid-state batteries with Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan, combining its expertise in cathode active materials (CAMs) for lithium-ion batteries with that of Idemitsu Kosan in high-purity lithium sulfide. Catholytes combine CAMs and solid electrolytes, enabling solid-state batteries to achieve better performance.
Umicore has officially inaugurated its new global R&D centre for cathode materials next to its existing R&D centre and production plants in Cheonan, Korea. Operational since April, this comprises a 30,000 m2 building complex, with space for growth.
The focus of research will continue to be next-generation battery materials, including very high-nickel NMC, low-cobalt NMC, manganese-rich chemistries as well as solid-state battery materials technology. The centre also houses a large battery cell laboratory with testing capabilities.
Chlor-alkali producer Nobian, which was separated from the rest of Nouryon last year, has signed an agreement with German-Australian lithium developer Vulcan Energy to assess the feasibility of producing lithium hydroxide from lithium chloride in Germany.
Nobian has an electrolysis and crystallisation demo-plant at its site in Frankfurt, near to Vulcan’s own geothermal-lithium reservoir sites in the Upper Rhine Valley area, where it plans to build several geothermal plants and a central lithium-hydroxide plant.
Subject to final agreements and customary conditions, including regulatory approvals, Umicore and Volkswagen will establish a joint venture in precursor and cathode material production in Europe. This will begin in 2025 with initial production of 20 GWh/year for the plant in Salzgitter, Germany, and should grow to 160 GWh/year by 2030, enough to power about 2.2 million full electric vehicles.