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Volkswagen deals to secure European EV lithium-ion battery materials and cheaper cell manufacturing

Mon, 12/13/2021 - 13:58 -- Paul Crompton

Volkswagen’s battery strategy is gathering pace with the vehicle OEM securing materials deals to supply its European lithium-ion cell production and investing in a US battery manufacturing process firm.

The first was to increase precursor and cathode material production capacities in Europe through the establishment of a joint venture with Australian firm Umicore.

The firms plan to gradually ramp up precursor and cathode material production capacity from 2025 with an initial annual production of 20GWh of materials for Volkswagen’s plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

Annual production capacity would then grow to 160GWh— enough to power around 2.2 million electric vehicles— by the end of the decade. 

The JV’s portfolio offering will cover next-generation technologies, including high-nickel chemistries. 

Thomas Schmall, member of the board of management of Volkswagen Group for Technology, and CEO of Volkswagen Group Components, said: “Volkswagen is implementing its battery strategy very consistently and at a high pace.

“Teaming up with Umicore enables us to establish a state-of-the-art supply chain in Europe as we share common values such as responsible sourcing of raw materials, as well as closed-loop thinking.”

In the context of the JV, Umicore and Volkswagen will collaborate on the “sustainable and responsible” sourcing of raw materials, with both parties planning to include elements of refining and battery recycling into the JV at a later stage.

Lithium offtake agreement

Volkswagen Group has also secured a binding lithium offtake deal with Vulcan Energy.

The deal is for the purchase of a minimum of 34,000 tonnes and a maximum of 42,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide over the duration of the agreement, which is for an initial five-year term.

Commercial delivery of the material is expected to begin in 2026. 

Volkswagen Group and Vulcan have also agreed to a first right of refusal to invest in additional capacity in the latter’s Zero Carbon Lithium Project, which is a lithium hydroxide monohydrate chemical product from its geothermal lithium brine project in the Upper Rhine Valley, Germany.

Investment in 24M Technologies

Volkswagen announced this week it would invest in Cambridge, US-based battery start-up 24M, with the goal of industrialising the latter's semi-solid process that improves the dry coating process, in the automotive battery area. 

The target is to generate "considerable cost optimisation" in future battery production by reducing material usage and eliminating several steps from the conventional production process. 

For this purpose, a new Volkswagen-owned subsidiary will further develop and upscale the technology for automotive applications based on 24M intelectual properties. 

24M President and CEO, Naoki Ota, said: “[Volkswagen's] investment, collaborative development and ability to scale globally will accelerate our manufacturing platform, thereby replacing the conventional manufacturing process and fast tracking electric vehicle adoption.” 

Prospective benefits include up to 40% less production area, considerable savings on investment and more efficient product recycling, as well as the reduction of the CO2 footprint of battery production. 

Implementing the process in large-scale production is targeted for the second half of the decade sunject to customary closing conditions allowing the transaction.

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MoU signals move toward anode supply for lithium-ion gigafactory in India

Fri, 12/03/2021 - 13:42 -- Paul Crompton

Battery anode materials start-up Epsilon Advanced Materials (EAMPL) has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Charge CCCV (C4V) to supply material for an Indian lithium-ion battery gigafactory.

The MoU covers the development and qualification of the large-scale supply of synthetic anode material to support C4V’s domestic supply chain vision to establish gigafactory in India. 

The MoU comes as the US-based C4V prepares to submit an application for the Indian government’s PLI-ACC scheme (Production Linked Incentives scheme for manufacturing advanced chemistry cell batteries).

As part of the agreement, both firms will jointly develop tailored, synthetic anode materials suited for applications in C4V’s lithium-ion cells and giga-scale production lines. 

The collaboration is intended to result in a long-term, volume supply agreement for battery materials of C4V’s battery cells that target Indian-based growth markets including automotive and industrial applications. 

Vikram Handa, managing director of Epsilon Advanced Materials— a subsidiary of Epsilon Carbon— said: “This partnership will give us an opportunity to develop anode material supply ecosystem in India for global supply. 

“This move will not only support our PM’s vision of 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' [a self-reliant India] but also put India on the global map as a battery material manufacturing hub.‘’

Epsilon has a commercial capacity of 2,500 tons per annum for anode precursor material (EMC series) and a pilot facility for coke powder (EMP series) and graphite anodes (EMG series). 

C4V is involved in two gigafactory projects through its affiliates iM3NY (New York, USA) and iM3TVS (Townsville Australia) in association with its strategic partner and shareholder Magnis Energy Technologies. 

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Battery recycler Li-Cycle Corp appoints new VP of Asia and board of advisors

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 10:05 -- Paul Crompton
Li-Cycle Corp has appointed Dawei Li

Battery materials recycler Li-Cycle Corp has appointed Dawei Li to the role of vice-president of the company’s Asia business and its board of advisors to deliver management advisory services to the Canadian firm’s senior management team.

Focused on the Asian market, Li (pictured) will oversee the Canada firm’s team, business development, and commercial lithium-ion battery recycling facility rollout across the continent.

Li says he plans to leverage his experience with directing global teams to facilitate Li-Cycle’s expansion in a region that is experiencing “prolific growth of electrification and lithium-ion batteries”.

He will report directly to Li-Cycle’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Ajay Kochhar.

Kochhar said: "The Asian lithium-ion battery market is the world’s largest, presenting a considerable supply of battery manufacturing scrap as well as lithium-ion batteries that are approaching their end-of-life and will need to be recycled.

“Li will play a major role in our global growth plans by spearheading our expansion in Asia. Asia is one of the key components of our broader global rollout plan over the next five years and beyond.”

Prior to joining Li-Cycle, Li served as the global business director for Lithium Carbonate at the Albemarle Corporation.

Li-Cycle is set to debut as a publicly traded company in the US and expand its operations into Asia, in addition to other regions.

Board of advisors

John Mitchell and Govind Arora were asked to join the company's board of advisors because of their  “experience and expertise” in business development, commercial support and strategic and business planning.

Both are partners and co-founders of Blue Horizon Advisors and Blue Horizon Capital, which support companies to scale and provide index-based investment products across the new energy economy. 

The other members of the board of advisors are Dr. Yuan Gao and Dr. Ahmad Ghahreman, who provide technical advisory services.

Mitchell comes from the specialty chemicals, energy materials, utility infrastructure, and industrial gases industries. 

He has previously served as president of lithium for the Albemarle Corporation, where he guided its lithium division. 

Arora was previously chief commercial officer for Albemarle Corporation’s lithium business. 

Dr. Gao is vice-chairman of the board of directors of Qinghai Taifeng Pulead Lithium-Energy Technology Co. Ltd. (Pulead), one of China’s leading lithium-ion battery cathode producers. 

Dr. Ghahreman has more tha 15 years of hydrometallurgical/wet chemistry experience. 

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Bench tests show First Cobalt can recover key lithium-ion battery materials from black mass

Fri, 08/13/2021 - 16:00 -- Paul Crompton
first cobalt refinery plant

First Cobalt Corp has extracted key lithium-ion materials from black mass collected from recycled batteries.

The Canadian firm’s bench-scale testing demonstrated its technology can extract lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite from black mass. 

The company is now working to leverage the existing operating permits, flowsheet and equipment at its Canadian hydrometallurgical refinery for the large-scale recycling of battery materials for reuse in the electric vehicle battery supply chain.

Metallurgical test work was conducted by SGS Labs on black mass material provided by upstream battery recyclers in the US and Europe. 

First Cobalt has hired an engineering firm to study the leaching of black mass within its existing refinery to produce nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese products using the existing flowsheet, and to produce lithium and graphite products with recommended modifications.

Completion of the engineering study is expected in Q4. 

If the study is successful, the firm intends to process black mass at the Canadian refinery facility on a pilot basis.

First Cobalt president and CEO, Trent Mell, said: ”There are many producers of black mass in the western world but few environmentally friendly options to then refine the product into battery grade material given the capital expenditure required and the permitting timeline associated with building a hydrometallurgical facility such as ours. 

“We intend to capitalise on this first-mover advantage and leverage our position as an ultra-low carbon operation.”

Under a Phase 1 expansion, the company aims to refine third-party cobalt hydroxide into a high purity, battery grade cobalt sulfate suitable for the electric vehicle market. 

Around 80% of cobalt sulfate is made in China and there is no production in North America. 

Longer term, the company’s aims to establish a battery park that would include large-scale production of nickel sulfate and the co-location of a battery precursor manufacturer.

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BASF’s cathode expansion accelerates with German lithium-ion recycling plant

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 14:44 -- Paul Crompton
BASF flags

Chemicals giant BASF is set to build a battery recycling prototype plant in Germany to extract key materials from end-of-life lithium-ion cells and production scrap.

The plant at BASF’s cathode active materials (CAM) plant site in Schwarzheide is scheduled to be commissioned by 2023.

The prototype plant will allow for the “development of operational procedures and optimisation” of technology to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese from used batteries as well as off spec material from cell producers and battery material producers.

The recovered metals will be used to manufacturer cathode active materials.

Dr. Matthias Dohrn, senior vice president, precious and base metal services at BASF, said: “With this battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total compared to industry standards.”

The plant’s location was announced in February.

Aggressive cathode expansion

In June, BASF is set to form a joint venture (JV) with Hunan Shanshan Energy to produce lithium-ion battery cathode active materials (CAM) and precursors (PCAM) in China.

German firm BASF will have a 51% share of the JV when it closes later this summer following the approval of the relevant authorities.

In May, materials firm Umicore and BASF entered into a non-exclusive patent cross-license agreement covering a range of lithium-ion cathode materials and their precursors.

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LG Chem extends Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) plant by 1,200 tons to meet growing demand from EV market

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 12:11 -- Paul Crompton

Korean battery materials firm LG Chem has announced it will invest around KRW 65 billion ($53 million) to expand carbon nanotube (CNT) manufacturing by 1,200 tons at its Yeosu plant.

The company is aiming to expand production by Q1 of next year as it targets the industry sector, which is expected to more than triple to reach 13,000 tons by 2024 mainly via the global EV market.

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ArcActive wins BCI award for its lead battery DCA material

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 15:02 -- Paul Crompton

Lead battery materials firm ArcActive has been awarded the 2020 Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Innovation Award during the Battery Council International’s (BCI) virtual conference on 27 April.

The New Zealand-based firm has re-engineered the negative electrode of the lead battery to remove the lead grid and replace it with a non-woven carbon fibre fabric (AACarbon™). 

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Cabot secures its place at top of lithium-ion materials supply chain with buy out of Chinese CNT firm

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 16:11 -- Paul Crompton

Battery additives firm Cabot has added carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to its lithium-ion energy storage materials portfolio following the $115 million acquisition of Shenzhen Sanshun Nano New Materials (SUSN) on April 1.

The US firm has finalised all registration procedures related to the acquisition, which was first announced on 6 January when Cabot entered into an agreement to buy the China CNT producer SUSN.

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Lead refinery closed after fire at Umicore’s Belgium plant

Wed, 03/04/2020 - 09:58 -- Paul Crompton

Materials and recycling firm Umicore’s lead refinery plant in Hoboken, Belgium, has been shut down after a fire on 2 March— the third such incident at the plant within 30 months.

An investigation has been initiated to identify the cause of the fire, which began at 18:30 CET when the plant was closed for maintenance.

A Umicore statement read that while it was too soon to assess the scale of the damage to the impacted installation, the rest of the Hoboken plant remained in operation. 

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BASF announces second European lithium-ion battery materials plant

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 09:58 -- Paul Crompton

Chemicals firm BASF has confirmed the location of its new battery materials production site in Germany as it steps up investment into the European electric vehicle (EV) value chain. 

The state-of-the art plant in Schwarzheide will initially produce enough cathode active materials (CAM) for around 400,000 full electric vehicles per year, says the German conglomerate.

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