Scoop: Northvolt scouting two Quebec cities for battery factory locations in Canada
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May 8, 2023
Emma Jarratt

The Swedish battery developer is looking at Saint-Basile-Le-Grand and McMasterville in Quebec as potential sites for a Canadian battery factory

Northvolt AB and its subsidiary company Cuberg Inc. are exploring locations in Canada for a North American battery factory, lobbyist records from the federal and Quebec government show. Photo: Northvolt AB

Swedish battery developer Northvolt is looking at Saint-Basile-Le-Grand and McMasterville in Quebec as potential sites for a Canadian battery factory

Northvolt AB and its subsidiary company Cuberg Inc. are exploring locations in Canada for a battery factory, lobbyist records show.

Per Quebec lobbyist registry filings this month, Electric Autonomy is the first to report that Swedish-based battery developer Northvolt is honing in on the communities of Saint-Basile-Le-Grand and McMasterville in Quebec (roughly 35 minutes east of Montreal) as preferred sites for a Canadian factory.

“Northvolt is exploring the opportunity to build and operate battery production in North America (design, development and production of batteries), and is therefore in dialogue with the federal Government,” reads the company’s federal lobbyist registry filing, in part.

Northvolt was founded in 2017. It bought San Francisco Bay California-headquartered Cuberg in March 2021. Northvolt already operates several factories in Europe. It acquired an advanced technology centre with the purchase of battery R&D company, Cuberg.

However, it now appears Northvolt is ready to expand and is taking a serious look at Canada.

In response to questions from Electric Autonomy, Anders Thor, VP of communications and public affairs for Northvolt, wrote in an email, “As we have previously stated, Northvolt is currently doing a wide site study in the United States and Canada. The municipalities mentioned are indeed included on the long list of locations we have been studying across North America, and have therefore been published by us in the public records.”

Previously, EV supply chain manufacturers overwhelmingly flocked to the Bécancour Industrial Park — two hours northeast of Montreal to set up facilities. Electric Autonomy reached out to Saint-Basile-Le-Grand and McMasterville for comment about a potential Northvolt factory.

A spokesperson for Saint-Basile-Le-Grand declined to comment.

Northvolt already has a small connection to Canada from a 2022 mineral supply deal with Vale for nickel from the mining company’s Voisey’s Bay site in Labrador.

Northvolt’s factory proposal

Northvolt is aiming to produce 150 GWh in annual cell output by 2030 worldwide. Establishing a Canadian factory will not only help the company reach that goal, but will also make Northvolt a preferred battery cell supplier under USMCA rules and lower the cost and carbon footprint of the batteries it makes and may wish to supply to the North American market.

“Minister Champagne has worked tirelessly to secure the future of Canada’s auto industry, including bringing more companies to Canada and the entire electric vehicle ecosystem,” said Laurie Bouchard, director of communications for the minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in an emailed response to Electric Autonomy‘s request for comment.

“It is good to see that our government’s investments are attracting the attention of automakers and companies from around the world.”

The battery developer cites three goals in its Quebec lobbyist registry:

  • Identify potential commercial and regulatory supports that would enable expansion plans in North America, and more specifically in Quebec.
  • Build and operate a factory (design, development and production) in Quebec to contribute to the battery industry.
  • Obtain funding to build and operate a factory (design, development and production) in Quebec to contribute to the battery industry.

Already Northvolt has deals with BMW AG, Volkswagen AG, Volvo Car AB and Polestar. (In April 2023 Volkswagen announced its own $20-billion battery factory in St. Thomas, Ont.)

A review of all provincial lobbyist registries shows Northvolt is only currently only in discussions with Quebec.

Quebec offers some of the cleanest power in Canada. Northvolt’s mandate is “to deliver batteries with an 80% lower carbon footprint compared to those made using coal energy,” according to the company’s website. Access to Quebec’s ample, zero-emitting hydropower presents Northvolt with a significant advantage in reducing its manufacturing footprint.

What does Cuberg offer?

Cuberg Inc. is a technology company that spun out of Stanford University in 2015.

While Northvolt is well-known for supplying lithium-ion batteries to the auto industry, Cuberg tackles a different market segment: high-performance vehicles and aircraft.

“[T]he cells deliver more than 70 percent increased range and capacity versus comparable lithium-ion cells designed for high-rate electric aviation applications,” reads a press release from the takeover announcement.

“The new technology will be deployed at scale in electromobility markets within three years, beginning with electric aviation.”

It’s unclear if Northvolt’s Canadian factory would produce these high-density battery cells for aviation application.

However, in federal and Quebec lobbyist filings, Cuberg Inc.’s registration exists apart from Northvolt’s.

At the federal level the documents read, in part: “Cuberg is looking to collaborate with the federal Government in order to identify potential policy, regulatory support and funding that would enable potential expansion plans in North America and build and operate battery factories (design, development and production of batteries).”

In the Quebec filing, Cuberg describes its activities as: “exploring the possibility of building and operating battery production in North America, and is therefore in communication with Quebec to identify potential sites in the region.”

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