Umicore and PowerCo, the new battery company of the Volkswagen Group, announced yesterday the founding of a joint venture for precursor and cathode material production in Europe. From 2025 onwards, the joint venture will supply PowerCo’s European battery cell factories with key materials.
The partners aim to produce by the end of the decade cathode materials and their precursors for 160 GWh cell capacity per year, which compares to an annual production capacity capable of powering about 2.2 million full electric vehicles. Cathode active materials are crucial for a successful powertrain transition towards e-mobility as they are the key technological lever for battery performance, as well as the biggest single contributor to overall battery cost.
The long-term partnership includes the production of precursor and cathode materials in Europe, which are strategically important input materials central to battery value creation. In addition, Umicore and PowerCo will collaborate on the sustainable and responsible sourcing of raw materials, an area in which Umicore is an industry leader. Finally, Umicore will be providing refining services to PowerCo and both partners aim to include, at a later stage, elements of refining and battery recycling based on Umicore’s technology and know-how into the scope of the JV.
Umicore CEO Mathias Miedreich: „This partnership further strengthens and diversifies our exposure to a major player in the EV value chain and marks an important step in the execution of our strategy to set-up value creative partnerships across the battery value. It is also a strong signal of recognition of our product and process expertise and a testament to the success of our strategy to establish sustainable industrial-scale, closed loop battery materials value chains in key regions. We are supporting our customers on their path to electrification, right from the start, and are very pleased to partner with PowerCo and support Volkswagen in their fast transformation towards sustainable electric mobility.”
Thomas Schmall, Group Board Member for Technology at Volkswagen AG and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PowerCo SE, said at the signing of the JV: „Cathode material is an indispensable strategic resource for battery production, accounting for roughly fifty percent of overall cell value. Immediate and long-term access to extensive capacity is thus a very clear competitive advantage. We are setting up a sustainable, transparent supply chain with high environmental and social standards, localizing value creation here in Europe.”
Production at the JV is scheduled to start in 2025 to supply PowerCo’s Salzgitter factory and reaching an annual capacity of 40 GWh in 2026. Both partners target to grow the JV‘s annual production capacity to 160 GWh by the end of the decade, based on market and demand development. The production site search is still ongoing.
Under the terms of the agreement, both partners will jointly control the JV and will equally share costs, investments, revenues and profits. The JV will give both partners a significant first-mover advantage in the fast-growing e-mobility market in Europe. Together they plan to invest about €3 billion into new materials production capacities.
The partnership will provide Umicore with secured access, through firm take or pay commitments, to an important part of the European demand for EV cathode materials at guaranteed value creative returns. It will provide PowerCo, at a significant scale, secure and cost-competitive access to Umicore’s innovative, sustainably sourced and tailored high-performance battery materials for its unified cell strategy in Europe. It will also allow PowerCo to benefit from Umicore’s proven production capabilities as well as its upstream expertise.
The JV is designed to meet both partners’ profitability and return criteria and will unlock, for each side, significant synergies and economies of scale. Umicore’s IP and know-how will be made available through a license agreement to the JV to ensure its leading technology position.
Ralph Kiessling, EVP Energy & Surface Technologies at Umicore: “Through this agreement, we are bringing in our long-standing and proven expertise in the battery materials value chain, while gaining secured access to substantial sales volumes. Moreover, the JV will unlock significant cost and operational synergies with the Umicore Group, hereby strongly contributing to Umicore’s 2030 Return on Capital Employed ambitions expressed at our recent Capital Markets Day.”
PowerCo CEO Frank Blome said at the contract signing: „The availability, cost and technical performance of battery cells are key requirements for the successful ramp-up of e-mobility. By building up substantial production capacities, we are securing the rapidly growing demand for battery-grade materials for our main customer Volkswagen AG in terms of volume and at optimal cost.“ “At the same time, value creation will be localized here in Europe and a sustainable, transparent supply chain with high environmental and social standards will be created,“ Blome said.
PowerCo Chief Procurement Officer Jörg Teichmann emphasized, „We are consistently entering the holistic value creation of the battery. A supplier industry for preliminary products on the scale required does not yet exist today. We are changing that through our long-term cooperation with Umicore as global market leader for the key materials used in cell production.“
The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. The name of the joint venture has not been decided yet and will be disclosed at a later point in time.
Source: Umicore / PowerCo