General Motors announced that it will construct a new cathode factory in North America for its electric vehicle batteries. The factory, which will be built under a joint venture with South Korea’s Posco Chemical, will process cathode active material (CAM), which represents about 40 percent of the cost of an EV battery cell.
Much like the rest of the auto industry, GM is racing to boost its EV offerings, vowing to spend $27 billion on the development and production of 30 new electric vehicles by 2025. To accomplish this enormous feat, the company is trying to get a stronger grasp on its supply chain, which includes battery manufacturing. The company has said it will spend over $4 billion on the construction of two battery factories in North America in partnership with South Korea’s LG Chem.
The new cathode facility will supply battery materials to the two factories that are currently under construction: the Ultium Cells facilities in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee. GM is also planning to build two more cell facilities by mid-decade, the company has said. GM did not disclose the location of the new cathode facility but said it would be open by 2024.
The majority of EV battery cathodes are made with NCM — nickel, cobalt, and magnesium. The Ultium batteries will add aluminum — so NCMA — and reduce the cobalt content by 70 percent.
Cobalt is a key component of batteries, but it’s also the most expensive material in the battery and mined under conditions that often violate human rights, leading it to be called the “blood diamond of batteries.” As a result, GM and other companies, like Tesla, are rushing to create a cobalt-free battery.
“We would like to get out of cobalt altogether and have a zero cobalt situation,” said Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president focused on global product development, purchasing and supply chain. “We’re going to start with old Ultium NCMA chemistry, and then we will we will advance as we go forward as quickly as possible to improve either the performance or the cost of the battery cell.”
This is the latest announcement from GM regarding its efforts to boost its EV production through vertical integration. The company also recently struck a deal to source lithium, a key ingredient in electric-car batteries, from geothermal deposits in the US. And it’s building a new 300,000-square-foot battery research facility in Michigan to help it realize its mission of building electric vehicle batteries that are longer-lasting, quicker to charge, and more sustainable for the environment.