Ecopro BM, a leading battery cathode materials producer, has disclosed plans to invest KRW 473.2bn ($420m) in its Pohang base in South Korea and a further CAD 156.2m in its Canadian subsidiary, Ecocam Canada. The announcements came as the company moves to expedite the expansion of its operations domestically and internationally.
The investments in Pohang are slated for the new CAM8 and CAM9 plants, announced earlier this year, which are projected to commence operations in the second half of 2024. The company’s first overseas cathode material plant in Hungary intends to begin mass production in Q1 2025. Meanwhile, the US joint venture (SK On-Ford and Ecocam Canada) is set to commence mass production in the latter half of 2025.
Ecopro BM anticipates an uptick in its cathode material production capacity from 190,000 tonnes this year to 280,000 tonnes in 2024. The company has earmarked around KRW 1.4tn ($1.2bn) for facility investment this year, double the KRW 720bn ($638m) spent last year.
The cathode material destined for the CAM8 and CAM9 plants is ‘NCMX’, a high-nickel content blend of nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) and nickel cobalt manganese with additives. The NCMX composition, containing over 90% nickel, is expected to play a vital role in reducing costs and enhancing battery performance amidst rising prices for key battery materials such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, and lithium.
Ecopro BM is also preparing to manufacture monocrystalline cathode materials. While polycrystalline structures are currently applied to electric vehicles, they tend to degrade faster due to the increasing gaps between materials with repeated charging and discharging. Single crystals, however, are devoid of this issue, as their particles do not break.
Cathode material, which makes up approximately 40% of battery costs, is one of the four major components in battery manufacturing, alongside anode materials, separators, and electrolytes. Ecopro BM’s main clients include Samsung SDI and SK On.