Leaning on technology from Taiwan manufacturing giant Delta Electronics, an upstart Ontario-based battery producer has drawn up plans to build what would be Canada’s first commercial-scale lithium-ion cell factory.
StromVolt Americas announced the project, estimated to be worth $200 to $300 million, at the Electric Mobility Canada’s EV2021VÉ virtual conference Oct. 5.
Maxime Vidricaire, CEO of StromVolt, said the plant is the “missing link” in Canada’s electric vehicle supply chain and will help North American vehicle makers reduce their reliance on Asian battery cell suppliers.
“It will finally empower us to transform our vast mineral riches within our borders. Instead of selling minerals abroad as a commodity, we can make them strategic assets to form a secure, local Canadian cell.”
StromVolt’s initial phase for the cell production site, planned for an unconfirmed location in Quebec, would cover 400,000 square feet (37,000 square metres) and be capable of producing cells with total capacity of 250 megawatt-hours per year.
“This may sound modest by global cell factory standards, but it represents a massive endeavour and will give our local EV manufacturers a significant boost,” Vidricaire said. Ultimately, the company aims to expand the capacity of the plant to 10 gigawatt-hours (10,000 MWh) by 2030.
With estimated costs for the first phase of the battery facility running to as high as $300 million, StromVolt’s next step will be to secure funding for construction. The company said it is currently in talks with a range of public and private investors.
The company has an aggressive timeline for turning the blueprints to reality, aiming to begin producing cells as early as late 2023.
StromVolt will rely on intellectual property from Delta Electronics to fit out the facility. The Taiwanese firm will also help train the company’s staff on “the art” of cell manufacturing as part of the three-year partnership.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the Canadian company will retain full ownership of the site, an arrangement unique for North American cell production, it said.
Locating the facility in Quebec will allow the plant to run on clean electricity and put it close to sources of some of the key minerals needed for lithium-ion cells. The plan also aligns with growing government and industry momentum for a made-in-Canada EV supply chain. Last week, for instance, 20 organizations, including the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association and Unifor, the union that represents workers at Detroit Three plants in Canada, announced a new alliance aimed at working toward securing such investments.
StromCore, an Ontario-based producer of lithium-ion forklift batteries, has signed on as StromVolt’s launch customer. StromCore was founded by Vidricaire in 2016, though the two companies are not directly affiliated.
With Quebec’s focus on commercial vehicle production, StromVolt said it would skew early cell production toward commercial EVs. It sees a larger long-term market opportunity in the passenger vehicle market, however, and plans to work on partnerships with the major automakers.
Relying on inputs that can be produced at Canadian mines — such as lithium, cobalt and manganese — Vidricaire said the plant would offer North American vehicle makers a more reliable source of battery cells than the current hubs in Asia.
“With tensions rising in the Pacific, it’s not difficult to see a number of factors putting shipping and trade at risk.”
Along with jostling for market share with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, StromVolt will likely face competition from the United States. The Biden administration made a fresh push to promote domestic cell production this spring.