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Ford fortifies EV plans with flurry of lithium supply agreements

A F-150 being manufactured at the Rouge EV centre.

Nemaska Lithium's Whabouchi mine site in Canada.

22nd May 2023

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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US automotive giant Ford Motor Company on Monday announced several agreements to secure supplies of battery-grade lithium products in a move to derisk and scale its electric vehicles (EVs) production.

The Michigan-headquartered group is sourcing lithium from US-produced sources or from suppliers in a country with a US Free Trade Agreement to help it qualify for the Inflation Reduction Act consumer tax credit.

The automaker entered into an agreement with Canada’s Nemaska Lithium for the supply of lithium products, including lithium hydroxide, for an 11-year period. The agreement calls for the delivery of up to 13 000 t/y of lithium hydroxide.

The agreement also provides that prior to starting delivery of lithium hydroxide produced in Bécancour, Nemaska will supply Ford with spodumene concentrate from its Whabouchi mine. Nemaska’s integrated project is planned to be the first one to produce lithium hydroxide in Québec.

Ford also entered into an agreement with US-based Albemarle, which will supply more than 100 000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium hydroxide over five years, starting in 2026.

"With the growing demand for EVs in the United States, our customers are seeking to regionalise their supply chain for greater security, sustainability and lower costs," said Albemarle Energy Storage president Eric Norris.

"This agreement exemplifies the industry collaborations and investments required," he added. 

In addition to the lithium hydroxide supply, Albemarle and Ford will explore collaborations to develop a closed-loop solution for lithium-ion battery recycling.

US-based Compass Minerals also signed a multiyear supply agreement to provide Ford with battery-grade lithium carbonate. Under the agreement, Compass Minerals will deliver up to 40% of its planned, phase-one battery-grade lithium carbonate from its Ogden, Utah, lithium brine development project to Ford for a five-year term once production begins. The company expects commercial production capacity of 35 kMT lithium carbonate equivalent once fully operational, with an initial phase-one capacity of 11 kMT battery-grade lithium carbonate coming online in 2025.

Further, Ford signed a strategic agreement with Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) for the supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.

“We . . . value Ford's trust in SQM's ability to deliver battery-grade lithium products sustainably produced in Chile. As one of the largest lithium producers in the world, for over 25 years, SQM has been investing in the technology and development of its own processes to produce high value-added lithium products with one of the lowest environmental footprints in the industry. This alliance will allow both companies to contribute further to the decarbonization of the planet on a global scale,” said SQM executive VP of lithium, Carlos Díaz.

Ford is investing more than $50-billion in EVs globally through 2026. The company plans to manufacture them at scale at a run rate of 600 000 EVs globally by late 2023 and two-million by 2026.

Ford started by electrifying its most iconic products – the Mustang, F-150 and Transit – which helped elevate the company to the No. 2 EV brand in the US last year.


Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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