The ink is dry and the shovels are almost in the ground to start construction on Umicore’s battery materials factory in Loyalist, Ont.
Umicore is ready to begin construction on its $2.1-billion cathode active materials and precurser cathode active material factory in Loyalist, Ont., after the company finalized its deal with the federal government and the province of Ontario.
Construction is anticipated to begin this year at the Belgian-based company’s new plant. The plant will go into commission in 2025 and scale production in 2026, says Umicore.
“We’re well on our way to ensuring that Ontario is the EV battery and component maker for North America. We’re exactly where we need to be,” says Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.
“We started with the OEMs and solidifying EV plants there. We moved to batteries — solidified two major battery players. And, now, we’re looking at the six components. And this is the first: the cathode.”
In July 2022, Umicore first announced it had chosen the Township of Loyalist (just outside Kingston) as the site of its North American cathode active materials (CAM) and precurser-CAM (pCAM) factory.
It was an big win for Ontario at the time. Now, says Fedeli, it is a clear signal that the province’s supplier market for battery manufacturers is solidifying.
“We’re looking at companies in the other five sectors: anode, separator, copper foil, electrolyte and lithium hydroxide,” says Fedeli. “We’ve got one, two or more prospects in each of those six categories.”
Umicore’s plant is receiving financial support from both the federal and provincial governments, with each contributing up to $551.3 million and $424.6 million, respectively, for a total of as much as $1 billion.
Finite window of opportunity
The Umicore plant’s output is expected to be 35 GWh in its first phase. According to today’s press release, the facility will produce cathode active and precursor materials on for EV and battery producers in Canada and the United States.
Today Umicore also announced it has its first customer in AESC, a high-performance battery developer. The two companies signed a 10-year agreement for Umicore to supply AESC with high-nickel battery materials for the U.S. factory. One of the automakers that AESC supplies is BMW.
Umicore also has an agreement to explore supplying Volkswagen’s battery subsidiary PowerCo, which is building a battery cell factory in St. Thomas, Ont.
“We are committed to being a reliable transformation partner for the automotive and battery industry and a trustworthy neighbor for the communities in Ontario,” said Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore in a press release.
Umicore’s partnerships are an example of the industry consolidating and, Fedeli believes, speak to an imminent wider trend.
“I’ve always said that we won’t be having these [factory] discussions in a year from now because everybody will have found a dance partner,” says Fedeli.
“We knew that the EV door was open and would be open for a limited time. They’ve got to get into production.”
Fedeli is confident that Ontario will be a popular jurisdiction for EV battery supply companies to be.
So, the next phase of the dance is making sure the talent is there.
Discussing the topic of cultivating the talent pipeline brings Fedeli back to Umicore.
As part Umicore’s plan to open its factory, the company is also offering 700 co-op positions in four-month terms. These positions will be available until the end of 2029. To date, this is a unique offering from a battery supplier in Canada.
It’s a win-win strategic approach to developing a talent pipeline, believes Fedeli, and one that other supply chain players in Ontario could take note of.
“That’s a really great program. At full production they’ll also employ an average of a dozen co-op students,” says Fedeli.
“I think it’s a great model to follow. It’s how we’re going to keep the students and graduates interested in the field.”