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Umicore: Six-fold increase in total NMC capacity by 2020

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    Couple of reasons to be extra bullish on Cobalt today:

    1: Umicore, one of the world's largest battery cathode makers announced yesterday it will invest 300 million Euro in 2018/19/20 expanding it's Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) cathode production facilities to produce 6 times more product. 300 Million Euro says they see a long life in NMC chemistry! See below for the news release

    2: Yesterday A2emCo announced it plans a build a Gigafactory in Australia, and quotes Peter Carlsson, Tesla’s former head of operations estimating 'the world’s going to need between 120-150 gigafactories by 2020, 2030'

    Insane demand coming...

    Umicore announced today an investment programme of € 300 million between 2017 and 2019 to further increase its production of NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathode materials for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. NMC is the preferred cathode material technology for rechargeable batteries used in vehicle electrification and global demand is increasing fast. The demand for Umicore's NMC materials is outpacing the market by a significant margin and the increased capacity will enable Umicore to cater for a surge in customer orders. The investment will also enable Umicore to meet growing demand for its proprietary high-energy LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) cathode materials used in high-end consumer electronics.

    This programme entails further investments in Cheonan (South Korea) and Jiangmen (China) with the first production lines expected to be commissioned in late 2018. Combined with the € 160 million investment announced last year, this will result in a more than six-fold increase in total capacity by 2020 compared to the levels of 2015.
    Umicore's NMC cathode materials are key ingredients in battery technology to extend the driving range of electrified vehicles and to make them more affordable. Umicore's twenty years of accumulated expertise in battery materials technology, its early qualification for transportation applications, extensive IP portfolio and unrivalled ability to scale up have made it a leader in this domain.

    Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore, commented: "The scale and scope of the investments underscore Umicore's leadership in clean mobility materials and our commitment to support the rapid growth of our customers. It is rewarding that our strategic choices are now starting to bear fruit and we are excited about the prospects for our business."
    Plans brewing for Australian gigafactory and A-EV manufacture

    A new company headed up by the former head of climate change at PwC Australia has revealed plans to mass-produce autonomous electric vehicles, and potentially build a battery gigafactory, on Australian soil within just a few years.

    The ambitious plans were revealed on Monday by Michael Molitor – the CEO at A-EV start-up A2emCo who, as well as an impressive academic record has notched up 18 years in the private sector at BP, McKinsey and the OECD.
    Speaking at the Innovation in the Energy Sector conference co-hosted by RenewEconomy in Sydney on Monday, Molitor said A2emCo aimed to be rolling out almost completely Australian made, level 5 autonomous vehicles by 2020.
    “(Level 5) means, you’ve got an app on your phone, you subscribe to the service, the car shows up to your house, or your apartment, there’s a cyber security system that IDs you, the door opens and says ‘good morning’ …the door closes, you’ve got 5G connectivity, it says you’re going to be in the office in the CBD in 17 minutes.”
    But before you scoff, he also concedes that in 2020 the cars’ autonomy function will not be switched on; the timing of that will depend on the timing of the switched on consumer, and of course when the regulatory framework is ready.
    So the car that rolls off the line in 2019-20, will be an EV, Molitor says – “a super sophisticated EV.”
    “Our vehicle is already designed, it’s in prototype, we’re building six evaluation prototypes … they’re not being built in Australia, for a variety of reasons, but we will be moving production here,” he said.
    “We’re looking at Q4 2019, Q1 2020, we’ll have vehicles on the road in Australia. And we like to under-promise and over deliver, so it may be better than that.”
    And to power these super-sophistocated EVs, Molitor says his company is also looking at building Australia’s own energy storage giga-factory, such as is currently being completed in the US, by Elon Musk’s Tesla.
    Indeed, he says A2emCo has already consulted with Peter Carlsson, Tesla’s former Tesla head of operations who built the gigafactory in Nevada, and is now building a gigafactory in Sweden.
    According to Carlsson’s own estimations, Molitor told the conference, to meet soaring global battery storage demand, the world’s going to need between 120-150 gigafactories by 2020, 2030.
    “So there’s going to be a gigafactory in Australia; there’s going to be gigafactories in Australia… And we’re looking at whether we do that, or we help somebody do that. That has to happen and it will happen,” he said.
    If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it is. But as Molitor tells it, it’s all going to happen, it’s just a matter of how quickly we get there, and who gets in at the bottom level.
    “If you don’t play in storage, you’re going to be left behind. Our approach to thinking about vehicles and batteries is based on overall resource productivity,” he said.
    Molitor also added that the economics of new, and current industries need to be re-assessed, because the metrics currently used are all wrong.
    “To be economic, the value of the outputs has to be higher than the value of the inputs,” he said. But all inputs had to be measured, that includes energy and resource availability, and not just cost of capital and labour.
    Molitor says the current global automotive sector is currently one of the top four “dumbest” industries in the world – alongside the thermal energy generation industry and the beef industry – in that it operates on a completely uneconomic model.
    A2emCo’s factories, he says, will tap advanced manufacturing platforms being developed by Siemens and will focus on reducing costs all along the production line, even by keeping the lights off on the factory floor.
    It also wants to tap local suppliers, labour and materials.
    “If you’re going to think about doing crazy things in Australia, first thing you do is run around and look at what you’ve got in your own backyard.
    “We want to create an entire AEV ecosystem in Australia, with Australian suppliers.
    “There are a bunch of (Australian) companies doing these things, but none of them are at scale in the absence of a big buyer like us.”
    Other musts are to use 100 per cent renewable energy to make and do everything, including recharging batteries.
    “That’s fundamental,” Molitor said. “If you’re using fossil fuel energy, you’re absolutely wasting your time.”
    And finally, the company hopes to “finance everything” with Australian investors and Australian money.
    So far, A2emCo has been funded with equity from “friends, fools and family,” Molitor says, adding that the company also has more than 100 unsolicited proposals for investment.
    “At the same way we’re capturing advances in technology, we’re also trying to harness radical changes in the way things are funded.
    “We’re quite confident.”
    But there are hurdles, Molitor adds, one of the biggest of which will be consumer acceptance.
    “We have heads-up display that looks like a jet fighter, so we’ll get all the car monkeys, but will we get the mums?”
    “There’s some hesitancy about all of that, but it will be about how we ramp up.”  
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