Volkswagen’s €1.7bn battery materials joint venture with Umicore is to be called Ionway as it selects a site in Poland for its first factory.
The Ionway joint venture is backed by the larger VW PowerCo spin out and plans large-scale production of sustainable battery materials ‒ precursors (pCAM) and cathode active materials (CAM) ‒ as key battery materials for electric vehicles (EVs).
The aim is to grow annual production capacity to 160 GWh by the end of the decade to support the manufacturing of 2.2 m battery-electric vehicles. The first site is in Poland with €350m backing from the Polish government.
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Ionway is designed to supply PowerCo’s European battery cell factories with and cover a large part of PowerCo’s EU demand, while providing Umicore with secure access to an important part of the European demand for EV cathode materials.
This is the first partnership between a car manufacturer based in Europe and a global leading producer of cathode materials. These are the single biggest contributor to overall battery cost and define its carbon footprint and so are strategically important input materials central to battery value creation.
The first CAM production plant will be in Nysa, Poland, alongside Umicore’s existing CAM plant following the grant form thePoilish government. Preparation of the site, engineering, and permitting are ongoing and construction will start as soon as the permitting process is completed. Slow granting of permits is one of the key bottlenecks that the European Commission has identified.
“We are excited with today’s announcement, as it marks the operational first step of Ionway and an important step in the expansion of Umicore’s European local-for-local integrated battery materials value chain,” said Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore.
“Ionway gives both PowerCo and Umicore a significant first-mover advantage in the fast-growing e-mobility market in Europe,” said Jörg Teichmann, Chief Purchasing Officer of PowerCo. “PowerCo has now co-created what it was looking for: a battery materials supplier to secure and build-up manufacturing capacity for reliable and cost-competitive precursor and cathode material production based on responsibly sourced raw materials.”
Production of the plant is expected to begin as soon as construction is completed, while PowerCo’s CAM demand for the Salzgitter cell gigafactory is secured from the existing production capacity of Umicore in Nysa in time for its start of production in 2025.
The choice for Nysa and Poland is based on the strategic location with access to renewable energy sources to power the plant’s production, as well as a skilled workforce. The production facility will benefit from Umicore’s nearby CAM know-how in Nysa and easy access to raw materials from Umicore’s refining operations in Finland.
“The launch of Ionway signals PowerCo’s and Umicore’s commitment to sustainable progress that makes electric cars affordable for everybody, starting now,” said Thomas Jansseune, CEO of Ionway. “The foundation of Ionway sends a strong signal for the roll- out of battery cell technology in Europe.”
Jansseune previously led Umicore’s New Business Incubation with projects in venture capital, solid-state batteries, decarbonisation, battery recycling, and hydrogen electrolysis
“Ionway is a start-up with a significant head start, because our partnership is built on solid foundations with Volkswagen’s PowerCo and Umicore, key players in the electric mobility transformation. IONWAY will no doubt grow into an industry reference in e-mobility, boosting innovation, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs, and will make the energy transition happen,” said Miedreich.
Since its launch in July 2022, PowerCo has already decided three gigafactory locations: Salzgitter in Germany, Valencia in Spain and St. Thomas in Canada. The company plans to set up battery cell factories with a total capacity of 240 GWh/year in 2030.