Japan’s Asahi Kasei chooses Port Colborne, Ont., for its $1.6-billion EV battery separator plant
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EV Supply Chain
May 15, 2024
Mehanaz Yakub

Based on earlier reports, the plant is to be a joint-venture with Honda Canada as part of its EV battery supply chain — although Honda wasn’t present, or even mentioned, at the official announcement

Initial conceptual image rendering of Asahi Kasei’s seperator plant in Port Colborne. Photo: Asahi Kasei

Based on earlier reports, the plant is to be a joint venture with Honda Canada as part of its EV battery supply chain — although Honda wasn’t present, or even mentioned, at the official announcement

Japan-based multinational company Asahi Kasei Corp. is investing $1.6 billion to build Canada’s first lithium-ion EV battery separator plant in Port Colborne, Ont.

The official announcement came Tuesday in the Niagara Region with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other federal and provincial government officials, as well as members from Asahi Kasei in attendance.

Asahi Kasei had already unveiled its plans to construct the plant in Ontario on April 25 — the same day Honda Canada announced its $15-billion plan to start EV assembly and battery manufacturing at new facilities in Alliston, Ont., in 2028.

What wasn’t revealed then was the separator plant’s location.

Both companies’ announcements that day also indicated that they intend to be joint-venture partners in the separator plant — and the assumption is that Honda Canada’s battery plant will be a primary customer for its output.

Yet, at yesterday’s announcement there was no mention of Honda’s participation whatsoever.

Kashiro Kudo, president and representative director of Asahi Kasei, was asked at the press conference who the plant’s customers would be. His reply (through a translator) only referred to “customers in Canada and also in the United States,” with the possibility of exporting to Europe as well if there’s a demand.

Electric Autonomy later reached out to Honda for further clarification about the automaker’s role in the separator plant.

A Honda spokesperson responded stating, “Honda is evaluating the scope of its recent $15 billion investment to build a comprehensive EV value chain in Canada, and is completing negotiations with its joint-venture partners, including Asahi Kasei Corporation. This work is expected to be finalized during the next six months and more details will be shared at that time.”

Producing key battery components

Asahi Kasei’s new plant in Port Colborne is operating under the name Asahi Kasei Battery Separator Canada. It will manufacture its proprietary “Hipore” battery separators, which are an essential component of the lithium-ion EV batteries. 

The separator enhances battery sustainability and durability by preventing direct contact between the anode and cathode. This prevents short circuits while enabling lithium ions to pass back and forth during battery charging and discharging.

Construction of the plant may be complete by the end of 2024. The plant will be commercially operational in 2027.

During the press conference, Kudo also said that the company will be importing materials for manufacturing separators from Japan.

“But eventually we would like to procure the materials from North America,” he added. “In order to do so, we are also thinking of transferring the technology to suppliers of those materials.”

Choosing Canada and creating jobs

Honda’s absence at yesterday’s announcement was also conspicuous when Kudo answered how and why Asahi Kasei chose Canada to build its first separator plant outside of Japan.

Kudo said the company had been wanting to build a separator plant abroad for a few years, first looking at locations in Europe and the United States.

“Frankly speaking, Canada was our third country to investigate opportunities for investment,” said Kudo.

“As we progress in our investigation, little by little we have learned that there is a huge enthusiasm coming from the federal government, provincial government and the local municipal government and also we have found that there are plenty of great quality human resources available here.”

But clearly, if the plant will ultimately be a joint venture with Honda supplying its battery plant in Alliston, locating it somewhere in the region also seems essential. (News reports suggest Port Colborne beat out Winnipeg for the location of the plant.)

Canada’s appeal and its ability to attract investments involves several key factors, said Trudeau.

“We have extraordinary natural resources, we have clean energy and we take climate action seriously. We have stable democratic institutions and strong communities and all those things are what the international community investors look for when they come. But the number one thing that is our competitive advantage as a country is Canadian workers themselves,” said Trudeau.

For now, it is unknown the exact number of job positions the new plant will generate.

However, Trudeau underscored that the investment will safeguard employment and career opportunities for “generations to come.”

The project is eligible to receive federal support via the Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit as well as provincial support via direct and indirect incentives.

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