LG Chem to build largest cathode material plant in U.S. to meet demands for EV batteries

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 22, 2022, 11:18 Updated : November 22, 2022, 11:18

[Courtesy of LG Chem]

SEOUL -- In a bid to meet growing global demands for cathodes, a key part of high-performance batteries used in electric vehicles, LG Chem, the chemical unit of South Korea's LG Group, will build a big cathode plant with an annual capacity of 120,000 tons in Tennessee with an injection of more than three billion dollars. It would be the biggest cathode plant in the United States.  
A cathode is an electrode used in batteries along with anodes to help the conduction of electricity through electrolyte materials. According to global market research firm TrendForce, the annual demand for cathodes is estimated to reach 2.15 million tons by 2025, thanks to the increased popularity of EVs.
LG Chem signed a memorandum of understanding with the state of Tennessee to build a 420-acre cathode plant in Clarksville. By 2027, the plant will have the capability to produce 120,000 tons of cathodes to power 1.2 million pure EVs with a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), with its operation relying completely on renewable energy provided by solar power and hydroelectric power plants.
Clarksville was chosen as the right place for the cathode plant "due to its proximity to key customers, ease of transporting raw materials, and active cooperation of the state and local governments," LG Chem said. The plant will produce NCMA cathode materials, an upgraded model of NCM that contains nickel, cobalt and manganese. The proportion of nickel is high so that battery producers can save costs and extend the driving range. NCMA increases stability by adding aluminum.

In July 2022, LG Chem signed a long-term agreement with General Motors to supply  NCMA cathode active materials between the second half of 2022 and 2030 to cell plants run by Ultium Cells, a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution (LGES) in Tennessee.

"The new cathode manufacturing facility in Tennessee brings us one step closer to becoming the world’s best battery materials manufacturer and fulfilling our corporate vision to become a top global science company," LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol said in a statement on November 22. "This site will be the North American manufacturing center of excellence for the cathode supply chain and lead to the creation of many well-paying jobs, contributing to the local economy in Clarksville."

LG Chem will seek to cooperate with mineral and recycling companies in the supply chain of raw materials so that customers can meet subsidy standards required by the inflation reduction act (IRA).

LG Chem has established a stable supply network of raw materials for LGES through a series of preemptive investments and partnerships with foreign companies. The company is trying to develop cobalt-free technology and single-crystal cathode materials for all-solid-state batteries which are seen as a next-generation power source for electric vehicles as solid electrolytes are nonflammable and more stable.

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