Plans for EV battery raw material supply in Iberia

The partners behind a JV aiming to develop a lithium conversion factory in Portugal say Iberia could supply enough geological feedstock spodumene to produce 700,000 EV batteries per year, starting in 2026.

Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt and Portuguese energy company Galp are laying plans for a €700 million lithium conversion factory in Portugal that could produce enough lithium hydroxide to feed 700,000 electric vehicle (EV) batteries per year.

The partners have set up a 50/50 joint venture, called Aurora, to develop the facility which, if it takes shape, would begin commercial operation in 2026.

Northvolt is keen to establish a more sustainable alternative to the Chinese battery supply chains which currently dominate and said yesterday the planned fab would require spodumene concentrate as a feedstock.

Raw material sourcing

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With the Gem Select website stating the most notable global finds of spodumene are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Madagascar, Brazil, and the U.S. states of California and North and South Dakota, Northvolt and Galp said they are confident of sourcing sufficient supplies in Iberia “which can be recovered with a low greenhouse gas emission footprint.”

Emphasizing every step of the planned European lithium hydroxide supply chain would be sustainable, the partners said the conversion of spodumene into its concentrated form would also be carried out in the most environmentally-friendly manner and committed to exploring the use of renewable electricity at the Portuguese conversion facility.

However, a press release issued by the partner companies yesterday suggested operations would initially be at least partly powered by gas-fired electricity with the statement saying any clean power used would be “minimizing, and eventually avoiding reliance on natural gas.”

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The fab would produce “up to 35,000 tons of battery grade lithium hydroxide per year,” enough to provide 50 GWh of energy storage capacity and 700,000 EV devices, according to the JV partners. Under the terms of the Aurora partnership, Northvolt would agree to take half of the output from a facility which would begin pilot production in 2025.

With the factory estimated to cost around €700 million, and to create 1,500 jobs, the partners said Aurora was considering potential sites and conducting technical and economic feasibility studies but a final investment decision has yet to be taken.

Paolo Cerruti, co-founder and chief operating officer of Northvolt, quoted in the press release, said: “The development of a European battery manufacturing industry provides tremendous economic and societal opportunity Extending the new European value chain upstream to include raw materials is of critical importance. This joint venture represents a major investment into this area, and will position Europe with not only a path to domestic supply of key materials required in the manufacturing of batteries, but the opportunity to set a new standard for sustainability in raw materials sourcing.”

Northvolt aims to have 150 GWh of European battery manufacturing in operation this decade.

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