Umicore to invest in European battery material factory
Belgian Umicore group is going to invest 660 million euro extra in the production of materials for lithium-ion batteries to make them cheaper and lasting longer. It will build a battery material factory ‘somewhere’ in Europe and a second one on top of the existing one in China.
Demand for cathode materials for rechargeable batteries is very high and Umicore is boosting its production in China and South-Korea. Last year the company booked a recurrent operating profit of 410 million euro, but it counts on 500 million in 2018 – a target set by the management eventually for within two years – and 675 to 725 million in 2020.
Holding more energy
Umicore develops and produces alloys on the base of nickle, manganese and cobalt, being one of the components of the lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. Advantage of the Umicore technology with nickle is that batteries can hold more energy and allow a larger range for an electric car.
Last year some 1,3 million hybrid or full electric cars are sold worldwide, a growth with 65%. A number that will multiply the coming years with China, encouraging buying electric cars, paying the major part.
Today Umicore is producing these materials in China, Japan and South Korea and is building two more factories in Jiangmen (China). Production has to be boosted because of demand and Umicore foresees 175.000 tons by 2021. This would make Umicore the major producer in the sector.
But competition isn’t asleep with German BASF, British Johnson and Japanese Sumitomo announcing to invest hundreds of millions, without counting five Chinese players that will boost their joint production up to 300.000 tons.
That Umicore will build a factory in Europe too is new. Where this factory is to be implanted is not unveiled yet, but the company says plans alreadyare in an advanced stage. They fit in with the ambitions of the EU Commission to build out a European battery production.
Umicore gathered with the EU commissioner for Energy and colleagues from Siemens, Solvay, Renault and Volkswagen the past few months.