“Just one word, young man: lithium!” As EV production ramps up, companies at all points in the supply line for the lightest metal are getting ready for new levels of demand, from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently warned that a “truly gargantuan battery factory” will soon be needed, to Panasonic, which is investing $200 million to expand its automotive battery production lines.
Farther upstream, Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) has announced that it will invest about $48 million to boost its production capacity for lithium nickel oxide from 300 tons per month to 850 tons, in order to accommodate the anticipated increase in Li-ion cell production.
SMM developed its high-performance lithium nickel oxide for cathode materials in collaboration with Panasonic, and is now a key supplier of the material, which ends up in Tesla’s electric powertrains.
SMM will expand production facilities at its Isoura Plant in Niihama City, Japan. Expansion work is to get under way in October, with completion scheduled for June 2014.