The deal will help Nano One accelerate its progress towards commercial production of CAM materials for electric vehicle batteries
Nano One and Sumitomo Metal Mining are teaming up to accelerate the production of cathode active materials. As part of this collaboration, Sumitomo Metal is making a $16.9-million investment in Nano One, which also gives it a share in the company.
The two companies aim to advance Nano One’s ability to begin commercial manufacturing of two essential electric vehicle battery components — lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cathode active materials (CAM).
“This announcement builds on years of technology development and CAM production by both Sumitomo Metal Mining and Nano One Materials,” said Nano One CEO, Dan Blondal in a press note.
Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is a Japanese vertically integrated miner, refiner and CAM producer. Nano One is a Canadian technology company that specializes in cathode powder production.
Through the investment, SMM will have an approximate five per cent stake in Nano One. This is the first time that a CAM producer has invested in the Burnaby-based company.
Building a One-Pot process production plant
Nano One’s market offering is its “One-Pot process” technology which, according to the company, creates high-performing cathode materials for NMC and LFP batteries at a lower cost while reducing environmental impact.
In November 2022, Nano One acquired Johnson Matthey Battery Materials (JMBM) and took ownership of JMBM’s LFP production facility located in Candiac, Que.
Nano One intends to use the investment from Sumitomo Metal to continue transforming the LFP production facility in Candiac into a One-Pot production-scale pilot plant and advancing engineering work for nickel- and manganese-rich materials.
Since January, Nano One has been conducting large-scale One-Pot LFP trials at the Candiac plant, with the aim of expediting the commercialization of its technology. The Candiac plant is currently the only existing LFP production facility in North America, says Nano One.
“The significance of this investment is much more than the dollar amount. This is a statement that validates our One-Pot technology and how we’re taking a differentiated approach to how we manufacture cathode active materials,” says Alex Holmes, chief operating officer of Nano One in a post published on social media.
Nano One also has plans to build its first commercial LFP plant adjacent to the Candiac plant. Currently, the company is in the final stages of completing a feasibility study to determine cost estimates, the size of the production line, overall capacity and project timeline.
In recent years, Nano One has also joined forces with various other strategic partners like Rio Tinto, BASF, Umicore and several automotive manufacturers to help speed up the development of its technology and production processes for cathode materials used in lithium-ion batteries.
Integrating tech to boost CAM production
Sumitomo Metal is actively involved in CAM production for vehicle batteries and has ambitious plans to meet market demands. Its goal is to increase its monthly CAM production from a current 5,000 tonnes to 7,000 tonnes in 2025; 10,000 tonnes in 2027; and 15,000 tonnes in 2030.
On an annual basis, this equates to 84,000 tonnes by 2025; 120,000 tonnes by 2027; and 180,000 tonnes by 2030.
SMM has focused on developing nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. However, in 2022, the company expanded its CAM product portfolio to include LFP.
SMM says it has opted to collaborate with Nano One to expedite its efforts in this direction to manufacture LFP CAM using Nano One’s technology.
“The aim of this joint development work will be to achieve a low-cost, low environmental impact production process for LFP CAM and nickel-rich CAM chemistries, such as NMC by integrating Nano One technology into SMM’s production process,” says SMM in its press release announcing the deal.
SMM also says it wants to explore additional collaborative opportunities with Nano One that may include more joint ventures and licensing agreements.
Canada-Japan battery relations ramp up
The partnership between SMM and Nano One follows the recent signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on battery supply chains between Canada and Japan. Signed last month, the MOC outlines a joint effort by Japan and Canada to create sustainable and reliable battery supply chains to achieve carbon neutrality and economic security.
“As worldwide demand shifts increasingly toward cleaner forms of energy, Canada’s critical minerals resources and battery supply chains will play a vital role in how we get there,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources in a press statement.
“The MoCs signed will allow for crucial economic opportunities for Canadian businesses and attract investment to Canada that will create good, sustainable jobs in the low-carbon economy for generations to come.”
Some of the areas of focus will include “promoting existing publicly available support in both countries for investment and projects in Canada by Japanese companies; collaboration in times of emergency in battery supply chains, including with respect to critical minerals; and promoting the use of renewable energy in battery supply chains.”
The MOC is a significant milestone for Japan as it represents the first time in the country’s history that it has entered into a cooperative agreement specifically addressing battery supply chains. Canada is the first country with which Japan has formalized an MOC in the battery supply chain.
“Canada and Japan share the same ambition for the future: a strong, clean and sustainable economy built on innovation,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
“Japanese companies know that Canada is a global leader in the green transition and that Canadian companies are key partners in this space. That is why we are witnessing the historic collaboration between our governments and our industries.”