Nornickel to boost nickel production in Finland for EV battery market

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian metals producer Nornickel said on Tuesday it will boost output of nickel products at its Harjavalta plant in Finland as it bets on the expanding market for battery materials needed for electric vehicles (EV).

Finland’s state mining investment firm Finnish Minerals Group, German chemicals giant BASF and Finnish utility Fortum are among companies currently forming an EV battery cluster in Finland.

Nornickel, one of the world’s largest producers of nickel, wants to meet rising demand from those companies in coming years, its head of sales, Anton Berlin told reporters.

Its Harjavalta refinery will expand production of nickel sulphate solution, which is used for the manufacture of intermediate products for lithium-ion batteries.

Being close to customers is vital for this product as long-distance transport eats up the bulk of its profitability, Berlin said.

“We are confident that this market will be rising,” Berlin said. Estimates of nickel consumption by the global electric and hybrid vehicles sector vary from 400,000 tonnes to 700,000 tonnes a year by 2025, he added.

Harjavalta currently produces 65,000 tonnes of nickel products a year, of which 10,000 tonnes comes in nickel sulphate solution.

It plans to raise production of nickel products to 75,000 tonnes by 2023 and to more than 100,000 tonnes by 2026, including at least 40,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate solution.

This solution would be enough to produce 1 million of electric vehicles, based on the current nickel per car usage.

Despite its expansion of raw materials production for the EV sector, Nornickel does not plan to move into actual EV battery production as it believes that “is a completely different business” to its own, Berlin added.

The Harjavalta project will cost the company several tens of million dollars, he added.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; editing by Susan Fenton

Biden faces key test on EV battery trade dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden faces a Sunday deadline to decide whether to intervene in a trade dispute between two South Korean electric vehicle battery makers that could impact a Georgia factory and his push for more electric vehicles.

The companies, LG Chem and rival SK Innovation Co, have spent months trying to take advantage of past and promised U.S. investments, and ties to politicians.

The Biden Administration, through the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, is set to decide as early as Friday whether to take the rare step of reversing the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), unless the Korean battery companies reach a last-minute settlement.

The White House declined to comment on Thursday.

The ITC in February sided with LG Chem in its trade secrets claims, but permitted SK to import components for batteries for Ford EV F-150 program for four years, and Volkswagen’s North American EVs for two years.

Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh said Wednesday Biden’s intervention was critical: “The White House could accelerate the future of zero-emission vehicles and green jobs, or threaten to reduce U.S. battery capacity and delay the transition to electric vehicles.”

The global auto industry is racing to develop EVs. Biden has proposed $174 billion to boost EV sales and charging.

Unless the White House intervenes, SK says the ITC ruling would force it to halt construction on a $2.6-billion factory in Georgia, where two newly-elected Democratic Senators are the linchpin of Biden’s slim Democratic Congressional majority.

Last month, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp urged Biden to intervene, noting SK’s plant will employ nearly 2,600: “Simply put: the livelihoods of thousands of Georgians are now in your hands.”

Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff has held numerous meetings with the Korean battery makers and Biden Administration, his office confirmed, and stressed “the urgent need for both companies to come to the negotiating table and agree to a settlement to save the Georgia plant,” a spokeswoman said.

LG’s battery unit LG Energy Solution is nearing completion of an Ohio cell manufacturing plant with General Motors and is close to announcing plans build a $2.3 billion second facility in Tennessee, sources told Reuters.

LG plans to invest at least $4.5 billion in U.S. battery production over the next four years. LG insists it can handle automakers battery needs if SK abandons its Georgia plant.

SK argues LG could not handle VW and Ford contracts and warns Chinese manufacturers may replace lost battery capacity.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Michael Perry

China consortium to invests $5 billion in electric battery venture – Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises minister said on Friday that a Chinese consortium would invest $5 billion in an electric batteries venture, which would include China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).

Erick Thohir was speaking during a visit to China and was referring to a deal announced late last year, where CATL would invest $5 billion in a lithium battery plant in Indonesia and would start production in 2024.

Outgoing CEO says Panasonic must cut Tesla reliance as battery tie-up evolves: FT

(Reuters) – Panasonic Corp’s outgoing Chief Executive Kazuhiro Tsuga said the company will need to reduce its heavy reliance on Tesla Inc by making batteries more compatible with electric vehicles from other global carmakers, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

“At some point, we need to graduate from our one-legged approach of relying solely on Tesla,” Tsuga, who will step down after nine years as CEO from April 1, told the newspaper in an interview.

“We are entering a different phase and we need to keep an eye on supplying manufacturers other than Tesla.”

The Japanese conglomerate announced in November that Tsuga would step down in April after nine years at the helm and that Yuki Kusumi, the head of its automotive business, would take over.

Under Tsuga’s leadership, Panasonic has shifted its focus away from low-margin consumer electronics to batteries, factory machines and components. The company said last month it expects its battery business supplying Tesla to be profitable this fiscal year.

Panasonic has partnered with Tesla in a $5 billion battery “gigafactory” near Reno, Nevada.

General Motors to partner lithium metal battery startup

General Motors Co on Thursday announced a partnership with a lithium metal battery startup to boost the U.S. automaker’s battery development, allowing for higher electric vehicle driving range in a smaller package.

The joint development agreement with SolidEnergy Solutions (SES) of Woburn, Massachusetts, will allow GM to cut weight from the vehicle, a key goal for automakers as they push to roll out electric vehicles. GM has said by mid-decade its Ultium battery packs are projected to cost 60% less than today’s packs with twice the energy density.

The companies plan to build a manufacturing line at SES to assemble a prototype battery by 2023, said GM, which invested an undisclosed amount in SES in 2015. Terms of the partnership announced Thursday were not disclosed.

Battery cells that use lithium metal in place of conventional graphite have the potential to store more energy, and thus provide more driving range in future electric vehicles (EVs), or similar range in a much smaller and lighter battery pack.

GM executives said the technology being developed with SES will be used in future Ultium-based vehicles, the first of which go on sale this fall with the launch of the GMC Hummer electric pickup truck.

“This is a great opportunity for us to find greater energy in a smaller package that will free up the space inside the vehicle for other technology,” Kent Helfrich, executive director of GM’s global electrification and battery systems, said in an interview.

Last year, GM introduced Ultium as a key pillar in its push to cut battery costs and extend electric driving range. GM is building a $2.3 billion joint-venture Ultium battery plant in Ohio with LG Energy Solution, a unit of LG Chem, and the companies expect to add a second factory, possibly in Tennessee.

The Detroit automaker said in January it was targeting ending the sale of light-duty vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel by 2035.

GM said last year it was investing $27 billion on electric and self-driving vehicles and plans to launch 30 EVs globally by the end of 2025.

The initial prototype batteries have completed 150,000 simulated test miles at GM’s technical center in Warren, Michigan, the automaker said. Other investors in SES include Chinese automaker and GM partner SAIC Motor, South Korean battery maker SK Innovation and chip tooling maker Applied Materials.

The deal is not exclusive and SES can work with other automakers, Helfrich said.

LG Energy Solution to invest $4.5 billion in U.S. battery production through 2025

(Reuters) – LG Energy Solution said on Thursday it plans to invest more than $4.5 billion in its U.S. battery production business through 2025 and add 4,000 jobs as it considers building at least two new U.S. plants, a company executive told reporters.

The South Korean supplier, a unit of LG Chem, said the investment will result in an additional 70GWh of U.S. battery production capacity. The company declined to say where in the United States it is considering a new battery manufacturing plant.

Denise Gray, president of LG Energy Solution’s Michigan unit, said the investment, which would indirectly create another 6,000 jobs during construction, was being made to respond to the growing electric vehicle market.

“We are eager to expand our production capacity so that it can meet the needs of the numerous global automakers across the U.S. and Europe,” Gray said.

LG is also in advanced talks with General Motorsto build a more than $2 billion second joint venture cell manufacturing plant in Tennessee that could be announced later this month. The first LG-GM JV plant is nearing completion in Lordstown, Ohio. Both companies have confirmed they are in discussions for a new plant.

LG Chem has been in a battle with cross-town rival SK Innovation after it alleged that SK stole trade secrets. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) sided with LG Chem in February, but SK Innovation has lobbied the White House to overturn the decision, warning it would force it to halt production on a new factory in Georgia.

Company executives said Thursday’s announcement had nothing to do with the ITC review.

“This is more about (having a) very proactive and preemptive investment plan prior to confirmation of demand from our customers,” LG Energy Solution Senior Vice President Chang Seung-se said.

“By adding this capacity earlier… we can quickly respond to market demand and customers’ orders,” he told reporters.

Neoen to build world’s biggest battery – Australian government funding

The energy storage project, dubbed the Victorian Big Battery, will be able to produce 450 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, more than double the capacity of Australia’s first utility scale battery, also run by Neoen.

Neoen has not disclosed the total cost of the project.

The government’s Clean Energy Finance Corp (CEFC) decided to provide debt for the project to help the country’s push toward cleaner, more reliable and cheaper electricity.

“This project is a world-class example of how utility scale batteries can help electricity networks support a higher penetration of renewable energy,” CEFC Chief Executive Ian Learmonth said in a statement.

As previously announced, Tesla Inc will be providing its Megapack technology for the project.

“With the help and hard work of our partners, Tesla and AusNet Services, we are on track to deliver this project before the next Australian summer,” Neoen Australia Managing Director Louis de Sambucy said in a statement.

Neoen secured financing for the project just three months after winning a Victorian state tender to supply up to 250 MW of capacity. The battery will help prevent blackouts in Victoria and New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, during summer months.

($1 = 1.2544 Australian dollars)

Electric car battery plant for Coventry Airport

Coventry Airport could be the site for a ‘gigafactory’ – a plant to manufacture electric car batteries.

Securing the factory could create thousands of jobs and attract up to £2bn of investment to the region, the city council said.

The site has been endorsed by West Midlands Combined Authority and, if plans are successful, could be operational by 2025.

JLR has announced its Jaguar and Land Rover brands will become all-electric.

The car manufacturer has sites at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, Solihull, Gaydon, and Whitley in Coventry as well as Halewood in Merseyside.

What is a gigafactory?

  • Gigafactories are built to create electric car batteries.
  • They have already been developed in other parts of the world, including by Tesla in the USA, but the UK does not currently have one.
  • A 3,000 job factory is planned for Northumberland.

The city council said it is to enter a joint venture partnership with Coventry Airport Ltd to develop the proposals, and it is set to submit an outline planning application later this year.

The government previously announced £500m funding as part of a ten point plan to support the electrification of vehicles, including developing gigafactories across the UK.

(from left to right) Cllr Andrew Day (Leader, Warwick District Council), Cllr George Duggins (Leader, Coventry City Council), Margot James (Executive Chair, WMG), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands), Nick Abell (Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire LEP)
image captionThe joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd is set to be approved at a cabinet meeting on 23 February

George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Coventry has emerged as a world leader in battery technology. 

“The city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, world-leading research institutions, and the UK’s largest car maker Jaguar Land Rover and it’s clear to me that Coventry is the right location.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street added: “By announcing the site now and driving forward with a planning application and a joint venture, we are showing how united and serious the region is about making this happen.”

Source: BBC

Exclusive: Battery recycler Li-Cycle nears SPAC deal to go public – sources

(Reuters) – Li-Cycle Corp, a recycler of lithium-ion batteries, is nearing a deal to go public through a merger with blank-check acquisition company Peridot Acquisition Corp at a valuation of about $1.7 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal could be announced as early as Tuesday, the sources said, requesting anonymity ahead of an official announcement. It represents a bet on the growing market for recycling used batteries, as well on the rising demand for lithium-ion power sources for new technologies such as electric vehicles.

Founded in Toronto in 2016, Li-Cycle recycles end-of-life lithium-ion batteries that power products such as electric cars, medical equipment and smartphones. Its investors include Moore Strategic Ventures and CC Industries.

The volume of end-of-life batteries is expected to reach 1.2 million tons in 2025 and 3.5 million tons in 2030, according to market research firm IHS Markit.

Peridot is a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) led by investment firm Carnelian Energy Capital Management. It raised $300 million in an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange in September.

A SPAC is a shell company that raises money in an IPO to merge with a privately held company that then becomes publicly traded as a result. SPACs have emerged as a popular IPO alternative for companies, providing a path to going public with less regulatory scrutiny and more certainty over the valuation that will be attained and funds that will be raised.

Canada Nickel held talks with U.S. government on supplying metal for EV batteries

Junior miner Canada Nickel Co Ltd has held talks with U.S. government officials about potentially supplying nickel for electric car batteries, its chief executive said, amid mounting concern in Washington about China’s dominance of global supply chains.

“It’s become very clear that there’s large portions of the periodic table for which the United States has no local source of supply,” Canada Nickel chief executive Mark Selby said in an interview. He confirmed the talks but declined further comment.

Canada Nickel’s sole project, the Crawford nickel deposit in Ontario, is not expected to begin production until the middle of the decade. Construction of an $800 million to $1 billion mine and mill is slated for 2023, pending financing and permitting.

The outreach to Canada Nickel shows heightened U.S. government interest in securing supplies of critical minerals used in everything from electric vehicles to advanced weaponry.

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to review critical U.S. supply chains while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week told Reuters there is potential for greater cross-border integration to spur mineral development.

U.S. Commerce Department officials held an introductory call in August with the miner to gauge its “ability to supply critical minerals, especially as it relates to EV batteries” and later offered an introduction to the U.S. Export-Import Bank credit agency, e-mails from the U.S. consulate general in Calgary show. The office did not respond to a request for comment.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced research arm has sought the miner’s input on “energy relevant mineral extraction,” a separate e-mail seen by Reuters shows. Program director Douglas Wicks declined to comment.

Nickel makes batteries energy-dense so cars can run farther on a single charge. Demand is forecast to double by 2030, driven by use in EVs (electric vehicles).

Miners have touted low-carbon supplies from Canada to meet growing demand.