Ford, South Korean partners building $1.2-billion battery cathode factory in Quebec
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Aug 17, 2023
Mehanaz Yakub

Plant construction is now underway in Bécancour, Que., with production to start in 2026 and support the manufacture of 225,000 EVs per year

A mockup of the planned battery cathode factory, on a 280,000-square-metre site, where production is due to start in 2026. Photo: Ford

Plant construction is now underway in Bécancour, Que., with production to start in 2026 and support the manufacture of 225,000 EVs per year

Ford Motor Co. is partnering with South Korean cathode specialist EcoPro BM Co. and South Korean battery manufacturer SK On Co. to build a new $1.2-billion battery cathode factory in Bécancour, Que.

The announcement was made today during a press conference in Bécancour, with officials from Ford, Eco Pro BM, SK On, along with Quebec Premier François Legault, federal minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne, and Quebec’s Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, in attendance.

“This is a milestone announcement,” said Champagne. “Putting Bécancour, Quebec, on the world stage is something we have achieved and putting Quebec at the centre of the EV supply chain is no small accomplishment.”

The federal government, through the Strategic Innovation Fund, is providing a conditional loan of $322 million to the project. The Quebec government, through Investissement Québec, is matching the amount with a partially forgivable loan.

Construction has already begun on the 280,000-square-metre site. The plant is slated to start production in the first half of 2026 and will create more than 345 jobs. It will have the capacity to produce up to 45,000 tonnes of CAM (cathode active materials) per year and support the production of up to 225,000 electric vehicles annually.

“This cathode facility will supply the material that will go into Ford’s future EVs in North America, specifically some of our future trucks,” said Lisa Drake, vice-president of EV Industrialization at Ford.

“And if you know Ford, and you know our passion for trucks — that is probably one of the premier and most important products in our lineup. So this facility is a cornerstone for Ford Motor Company in all of North America. That’s how important this plant is to us.”

Three years in the making

Rumours about a battery cathode factory joint venture involving Ford, EcoPro BM Co, and SK On have been circulating since last fall, following a report by the Korean Economic Daily.

During the conference, all the representatives confirmed that this announcement has been in the works for three years.

EcoPro BM established EcoPro CAM Canada LP in February for building the facility. SK On and Ford will become investors once the deal is closed, subject to conditions and regulatory approvals.

“This facility is a cornerstone for Ford Motor Company in all of North America.”

Lisa Drake, vice-president of EV Industrialization, Ford Motor Co.

Once the plant is ready, day-to-day operations of the facility will be managed by EcoPro BM, focusing on producing high-quality nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) cathode materials for EV batteries.

“We chose Bécancour, Quebec and Canada for a number of reasons,” said Jae-hwan Joo, EcoPro BM CEO. “For the skilled workforce here and the strong federal and provincial governments, for access of advanced battery lithium minerals, for access to stable, clean and inexpensive hydroelectric power generation. For Bécancour’s water port, and well-organized infrastructures including highways, railways and shipping lanes. EcoPro BM is in Bécancour for a long time.”

SK On might not be well-known in North America, but the company is the fifth-largest supplier of EV batteries in the world.

The new facility is part of SK On’s strategy to secure a stable supply of key battery materials in North America. The company already operates two battery plants and is adding four more with its partners here. Its annual production capacity in North America is expected to reach more than 180 GWh after 2025, which is enough to power about 1.7 million EVs a year.

This is the first investment Ford has ever made in Quebec.

“Ford has been serving customers in Canada for 119 years, longer than any other automaker, and we’re excited to invest in this new facility to create a vertically integrated, closed-loop battery manufacturing supply chain in North America designed to help make electric vehicles more accessible for millions of people over time,” said Bev Goodman, president and CEO, Ford of Canada in a press statement.

“We’re excited about the opportunity for our first-ever investment in Quebec with a new facility that will help shape the EV ecosystem there.” 

Quebec’s EV hub

Bécancour, a small town with a population of approximately 15,000 residents, located about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, is being transformed into the central hub for EV battery component manufacturing in Quebec.

The Ford battery cathode factory adds to a growing list of projects announced or planned there by major players in the EV battery supply chain.

Most recently, in May, General Motors and Posco announced they had received a combined $ 300 million in funding from both Ottawa and Quebec governments to build their previously announced Ultium Cathode Active Material (CAM) processing facility in Bécancour.

GM previously inked a deal in 2022 with Vale Canada, a subsidiary of Brazilian mining giant Vale, for battery-grade nickel sulphate that will be produced at the miner’s processing plant in Bécancour, once it opens in 2026.

The German chemical giant, BASF is building a cathode active materials plant, with production expected to start by 2025.

Electra announced in 2022 it was in preliminary discussions with the Government of Quebec to construct a new cobalt sulfate refinery in Bécancour.

Nemaska Lithium is building a chemical conversion facility that will open in 2026. The plant will be used to convert the spodumene concentrate produced at the company’s Whabouchi mine to lithium hydroxide.

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