Lithium-ion batteries: Umicore to open Europe’s first large-scale cathode plant

Just prior to its Capital Markets Day (CMD) in Korea, Umicore announced it is to build a new lithium-ion battery cathode material plant at Nysa in southern Poland that would “significantly contribute to the European Union’s initiative to promulgate a leading rechargeable battery industry based on innovative technologies and a sustainable supply chain” according to CEO Marc Grynberg.

Normally secretive Umicore revealed at its CMD that it is on target to achieve sales of 100,000t of cathode materials in 2019, with capacity of 175,000tpy NMC by 2021 from sites in Korea, China, and now Poland. That output would give Umicore around a 25% share of the global cathode market, which Roskill estimates will be between 360-440,000t depending on lithium-ion battery output.

Roskill view: South Korea’s Samsung SDI opened a 50,000 electic vehicle (xEV) pack plant in Hungary in 2017, with SK Innovation and GS Yuasa now building 7.5GWh xEV and 500,000 starter-lighting-ignition (SLI) lithium-ion battery plants there also. A123 (now Lithium Werks) already has a 48V plant in Czech Republic, and LG Chem is completing a 100,000 xEV lithium-ion battery plant in Poland, while China’s CATL recently announced plans for a 24GWh xEV battery plant in Germany. These lithium-ion heavyweights already have contracts worth billions of dollars with European automakers such as Volkswagen Group, BMW, Daimler and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. As Asian cell and pack manufacturers flock to Europe to align with their growing local automaker customers’ xEV supply chain, further upstream activity is anticipated that will boost Europe’s demand for battery raw materials.

To discuss the lithium-ion battery industry with Roskill, contact Nessa Zhang: nessa@roskill.com or Jose Lazuen: jose@roskill.com.