Martinrea International Inc., is backing away from an early-stage venture aimed at developing graphene-enhanced lithium ion battery cells for electric vehicles.
The Canadian parts supplier and its partner NanoXplore Inc., announced March 27 that the Montreal-based graphene company has agree to buy Martinrea’s 50-per-cent stake in VoltaXplore Inc.
The $10 million purchase gives NanoXplore full control over the battery joint venture, which was formed in April 2021 to commercialize graphene-enhanced batteries, and had received $5 million in investment from Martinrea. VoltaXplore opened a lab-scale production line in Montreal last year. It was originally targeting the start of production at a commercial-scale facility expected to cost $450 million by mid-2024.
“Though we are not pursuing the production of batteries at Martinrea, we believe strongly in graphene and will continue to work with NanoXplore to develop graphene-based solutions,” Martinrea CEO Pat D’Eramo said in a release.
The Vaughan, Ont.-based supplier has collaborated with NanoXplore for years, recently bringing graphene-coated brake lines to market.
It is also the largest single shareholder in the graphene company, holding a 21.1-per-cent stake in the publicly traded business at the start of the month. Martinrea’s share of the company rose to 22.7 per cent following the $10 million, all-stock VoltaXplore transaction.
While Martinrea is backing away from the battery cell venture, NanoXplore CEO Soroush Nazarpour said the parts supplier’s early support has helped de-risk the project “significantly.”
NanoXplore is confident in the value proposition graphene brings to battery cells and plans to continue scaling the technology, he added.
“As we work towards our goal to build the gigafactory, we are looking to bring in new investors and customers, as well as government financing to support and realize our ambitions.”
NanoXplore said it has already demonstrated one type of battery cell built on the Montreal line and is now retooling the facility to build larger cylindrical cells typically used in the EV market.
Testing shows the graphene-enhanced cells will increase EV battery range by up to 10 per cent, while cutting charge times to as little as 10 minutes because of graphene’s high conductivity, the company said.