Rare earth minerals and other battery materials are crucial to global politics. As this article explains, China’s power over global advances in clean technology and medical advancements came to a head in 2010 when it cut off supplies from Japan. This ultimately left Japan defenseless and with no choice but to give in on the border dispute. This has prompted Japan to take a different path in pursuing clean technology and could explain why Japanese automakers are choosing to stick with hydrogen technology when the majority of the world is betting on battery electric vehicles ( BEV or “full EV”).
Added to the geopolitical problems are the problems related to US subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs). If a vehicle is to qualify for tax credits and rebates, its battery must come from minerals that are not found in countries that the current US administration does not trust, especially China. This could lead to more plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) being built instead of all-electric vehicles (BEVs), but much depends on how many BEVs can be created with batteries from friendly countries.
Although I’m personally a fan of PHEVs because they could help solve mineral supply problems and prevent democratic countries from depending on China for them, I know that most readers (not to mention senior editors here) prefer BEVs. Luckily, the good news is starting to pile up for all of you.
A growing number of battery manufacturers and auto companies are adapting and looking to friendly countries to take care of the mineral supplies needed for electric vehicles. Let’s recap some of these recent battery mineral offerings:
In August, VW Group struck a deal that showed how fast it was after US subsidies changed. After reaching an agreement, the Volkswagen Group and the Canadian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). According to the memorandum of understanding, the two parties will explore options for Canada’s role in Volkswagen’s international and regional battery supply chains. PowerCo is responsible for managing aspects such as battery value creation, raw material supply chains and cathode material production in North America – to name a few – and has played a vital role so far with scheduled procedures underway.
The goal is to quickly establish highly standardized cell production capacities of 240 gigawatts per year in Europe alone. In addition, a specialized gigafactory will be built in North America. Sites are being studied for possible manufacturing locations.
“I am delighted that Volkswagen and Canada have today signed a memorandum of understanding on value creation for batteries,” said Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany at the time. “This is excellent evidence that cooperation with our close friends and allies in Canada is also deepening in the context of raw material security and could encourage other companies to follow.”
In October, Stellantis and GME Resources Limited announced their agreement to sell battery-grade nickel-cobalt sulphate products from the NiWest Nickel-Cobalt project in Western Australia. This is good news for countries dependent on these resources, as they can be sure that Australia will not use them as leverage to obtain geopolitical concessions.
Around the same time, GM struck a similar deal with Queensland Pacific Metals of Australia. As part of the agreement, GM is expected to invest up to $69 million in Queensland Pacific Metals for the development of its Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) project located in northern Australia. The hub will process nickel laterite ore using a proprietary waste reduction process that eliminates the need for a tailings dam.
Another deal announced
Now there is yet another deal for Canadian minerals, this time with Panasonic.
Panasonic Energy Co., Ltd. announced today that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with integrated graphite producer Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc (NMG) to establish a North American supply chain for graphite, used as an anode active material in batteries lithium ions. Both companies will collaborate with Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (“Mitsui”; Tokyo, Japan) to streamline a feasibility study for the potential development of an integrated graphite production business in North America. The goal is to conclude an offtake agreement by March 2023.
As more people switch to electric vehicles (EVs), Panasonic Energy is working to increase production of EV batteries in the United States. This increase in demand will require increased localized sourcing of materials and the establishment of a sustainable supply chain. To jointly promote the integrated business development “from mine to battery materials” in North America, Panasonic Energy and NMG have entered into a strategic partnership with Mitsui. This will involve the refining of graphite mined at NMG’s Matawinie mine (Quebec) and active anode materials produced at its battery materials plant in Bécancour, Quebec. As part of the feasibility study, NMG will develop production facilities and material samples which Panasonic Energy will then evaluate.
Panasonic Energy believes it has established an excellent connection with the Canadian government when it comes to understanding how critical it is to ensure sustainability. The company knows that federal and provincial governments support renewable energy sources and efficient businesses. Panasonic would therefore like to help as much as possible.
NMG’s low environmental impact graphite is a major step towards its goal of halving its carbon footprint by FY2031. Sourcing materials for battery production in the United States from Canada will also shorten supply chain distances and significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the logistics process.
Panasonic believes that its excellent technology and rich experience in battery development and production will drive the growth of the lithium-ion battery industry. Its strong partnership with NMG is an effort by the company to achieve zero emissions, which will ultimately bring it closer to balancing happiness and sustainability.
Opponents could be wrong
While it’s unclear what the final mining yields of these Canadian and Australian deals will be (they’re currently only at the memorandum of understanding stage), it shows that automakers and battery manufacturers are responding to the call for more minerals from geopolitically secure sources. . Limiting US tax credits to those who use raw battery materials from friendly countries seemed like a disaster earlier this year, but the industry just might pull it off and leave us all in a better place.
Featured image provided by Panasonic.
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