GM, Posco Chemical Partner for North American Production of Battery Cathode Materials

General Motors has already announced plans to invest $ 35 billion in vehicle electrification through 2025, which includes 20 new battery-electric vehicles for the North American market and 30 models worldwide. As part of this effort, GM

is aggressively moving towards the vertical integration of key components including batteries, motors and other components. The automaker’s latest announcement is a new joint venture with South Korean Posco Chemical that will process active cathode materials (CAMs).

Lithium-ion cells are made up of four main components, cathodes, anodes, separators, and electrolyte. The cathode is made by coating an aluminum foil with the CAM which usually consists of a slurry containing a variety of materials mixed with lithium that make up the chemistry. Most of today’s electric vehicles use a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) mixture. GM has developed a nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminum (NMCA) mixture for its new Ultium cells which reduces the cobalt content by approximately 80%. Ultimately, GM wants to get a blend without cobalt.

According to Doug Parks, executive vice president of product development at GM, CAM accounts for about 40% of the cost of cells. Posco had previously entered into agreements with GM and its joint venture Ultium Cells LLC LG Energy Solutions to supply both cathode and anode materials. The first Ultium cell plant in Lordstown, Ohio will begin volume production in 2022, followed by a second plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Two additional factories are planned by 2025.

The new venture between GM and Posco will result in the construction of a new CAM processing plant in North America with production slated for 2024. A site for the CAM processing plant is expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2022. When the The facility will be operational and should provide most of the CAM required for the first four Ultium cell factories.

The joint venture’s CAM plant will receive precursor materials produced at other facilities and transform them into the mixture required for cell production. GM is also working to source precursor materials such as lithium produced from geothermal brine from the Salton Sea in California. GM announced a partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources earlier this year for this carbon-free lithium mining process. While Ultium Cells will begin production next year, GM also has a joint venture with Li-Cycle to recover materials from production waste and possibly end-of-life batteries. These materials will also eventually be reintegrated into the production flow of new batteries.

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