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Energy Storage

Cathode projects advance in North America

Redwood Materials will supply a Panasonic battery factory

by Matt Blois
November 17, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 41


An aerial view of a large factory in the Nevada desert.
Credit: Redwood Materials
An aerial view of Redwood Materials' site in Nevada

Several big carmakers are building North American factories for batteries that will power their electric vehicles. But right now there’s no local plant that makes cathode material for those batteries.

Redwood Materials is one of several companies that wants to fill that gap. The company says its planned cathode-​material facility in Nevada will supply a battery factory Panasonic is building in Kansas.

Other projects are also advancing.BASF, Posco, and Umicore are planning billions of dollars of investment in Canadian cathode-material plants. In July, partnerships between SK On and Ford Motor, and LG Chem and General Motors, indicated interest in building North American cathode-material plants. In October, Our Next Energy and Gotion High-Tech secured tax breaks for billion-dollar cathode-​material factories in Michigan.

Chinese companies now produce about 70% of the material used to make cathodes, according to the International Energy Agency. The remaining production is concentrated in Japan and South Korea; there is almost none in North America.

Michael Sanders, a battery industry analyst with Avicenne Energy, says that’s because until recently there weren’t enough North American battery factories buying cathode material. But companies have begun building dozens of them. According to Sanders, the tipping point came when battery makers announced plans for 250 GW h of battery cell production in the US .

“That’s when we started to see many of the materials move,” Sanders says. “Cathode, one of the highest-value materials in the cell . . . makes sense to localize.”

The US government is accelerating investment by offering tax breaks and grants for US-made battery materials.

Redwood isn’t specifying how much material it plans to sell to Panasonic, but Redwood has ambitions to produce enough cathode and anode material for 1 million electric vehicle batteries by 2025 and 5 million by 2030.

Sanders says one challenge for Redwood will be securing enough raw materials to produce cathode material at that scale. Redwood emphasizes its ability to recycle, but Sanders doesn’t expect recycling to be a significant source of raw materials until after 2030.



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