General Motors has secured enough cathode material for five million electric cars

General Motors needs a lot more cathode-active materials (CAM) if it’s going to reach its goal of making enough electric cars to become a completely carbon-neutral company by 2040. How much is enough? How about 950,000 tons of stuff.

GM now says it has reached an agreement with LG Chem, a leading battery maker in South Korea, to secure supplies of CAM starting later this year. CAM is essentially what makes a battery a battery, made up of components such as treated nickel, lithium, and other materials, and accounts for about 40 percent of the total cost of a battery cell.

The majority of EV battery cathodes are made of NCM – nickel, cobalt, and magnesium. Cobalt is a major component of the mix, but it is also the most expensive battery material and is mined under conditions that often violate human rights, leading to it being called “battery’s blood diamond”. As a result, General Motors and other companies like Tesla are rushing to produce a cobalt-free battery. GM’s Ultium batteries, for example, will add aluminum — making the mix NCMA — and reduce the cobalt content by 70 percent.

LG Chem will start providing CAM to the automaker starting in the latter half of 2022 and running through 2030. General Motors says this will be enough battery material to power nearly 5 million electric cars, helping the company in its quest to catch up with Tesla.

General Motors said it plans to spend $30 billion by 2025 building 30 new plug-in models in its quest to overtake Elon Musk as the world’s leading EV company. Tesla still dominates the relatively small electric vehicle market in the United States, with a market share of about 66 percent, while General Motors has only about 6 percent. This year, the company has sold more than old auto competitors like Ford and Hyundai, according to CNBC.

In a furious attempt to catch up to become more vertically integrated, General Motors is trying to get a stronger understanding of its supply chain, which includes battery manufacturing. The company said it will spend more than $4 billion building two battery plants in North America in partnership with South Korea’s LG Chem.

General Motors said today that it will also explore localizing a CAM production facility with LG Chem by the end of 2025. The company previously announced that it will set up a new cathode plant in North America in a joint venture with South Korea’s Posco Chemical.

The company also recently struck a deal to acquire lithium, a key component in electric car batteries, from geothermal deposits in the United States. It is building a new 300,000-square-foot battery research facility in Michigan to help it achieve its mission of building electric vehicle batteries that last longer, charge faster and are more environmentally sustainable.

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