Belgium-based Umicore has broken ground in China for a new battery materials plant as part of a EUR360 million ($434m) expansion programme.
Umicore said the new plant in in Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, would produce NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to meet increasing demand for the electric vehicle market.
The plant is being built close to Umicore’s existing cathode materials production plant in Jiangmen and will be operated by Jiangmen Umicore Changxin New Materials (JUC)— a joint venture between China’s Jiangmen Changxin Technology and Umicore.
According to the Jiangmen government, the new plant will cover an area of around 333,000 square metres and is expected to generate CNY19.5billion ($3bn) in “annual production value”.
A Umicore spokesperson told BBB the company would not disclose details about the plant’s production capacity. However, the spokesperson confirmed the new plant would contribute to “more than a six-fold increase in total capacity by 2020 compared to the levels of 2015”.
In addition to Jiangmen, Umicore is also increasing NMC production at a site in Cheonan, South Korea. The new investments are in addition to EUR160m of funding to support capacity expansion announced in 2016.
The Umicore expansion in China comes amid increasing tie-ups between European and Chinese firms in relation to the competitive EV battery production sector. In 2017, Chinese lithium battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) reportedly took a 22% stake in Finland’s Valmet Automotive to supply European carmakers with battery packs and drivetrain solutions for electric cars.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has pledged to support “market uptake of zero emission cars, with seamless charging infrastructure and high-quality batteries produced in Europe”.