Japan’s Marubeni Corporation has become the latest Asian player vying for a stake in Europe’s evolving battery cells business through a deal with Swedish lithium-ion firm Northvolt.
Marubeni and Northvolt have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate, in a move that could see the Japanese conglomerate supply LIB manufacturing equipment and raw materials.
The companies said they are also “looking at jointly developing an LIB recycling business” to serve the “expanding electric vehicle (EV) and used LIB recycling market”.
Marubeni and Northvolt said: “Given the growing demand for LIBs in Europe, Northvolt is planning to build a large-scale 32GWh LIB factory in Sweden. Marubeni is considering supplying Northvolt’s LIB factory with LIB manufacturing equipment and LIB raw materials. With the increasing demand for storage batteries, Northvolt is aiming to expand their storage battery sales. Marubeni will support their marketing activities, fully using Marubeni’s knowledge in the renewable energy business.”
Northvolt’s agreement with Marubeni comes just weeks after Chinese private capital firm GSR Capital said it would invest $500 million in Swedish EV producer NEVS and build batteries in the country.
Sweden is seen as a bulwark state for the development of the EU’s ‘batteries alliance’— through which Europe wants to push back on Asia’s dominance in the battery sector.
However, with the European Investment Bank pledged to finance Northvolt’s construction of a LIB manufacturing facility at Vasteras, it could be argued that EU cash is indirectly facilitating— rather than discouraging— the involvement of Asian firms such as Marubeni.
Marubeni’s global activities span energy, chemicals, metals and minerals resources.
In 2016, the group pledged to develop a system for the “stable supply of highly competitive spherical natural graphite, sourced from a graphite-rich ore, to contribute to the development of the lithium-ion battery industry”.
Marubeni also has an off take agreement with Australian company Syrah Resources for the exclusive sale of spherical natural graphite, the raw material of natural graphite, from Mozambique to Japan and Korea.
Earlier this month, Northvolt signed an agreement in principle for the supply of battery grade lithium hydroxide from Canada’s Nemaska Lithium.
The Spring issue of Batteries & Energy Storage Technology Magazine (BEST) looks into what could be a looming battery trade war between the EU and Asia. Make sure you’ve subscribed.