Johnson Matthey launches investment in eLNO for better batteries

British chemical company Johnson Matthey announced commercialisation of eLNO ultra-high energy battery cathode materials, which according to the company, would be better in terms of energy density and cost than NCM 811 or NCA. There are no numbers on energy density, but we assume 250-300 Wh/kg on the cell level would be needed to beat NCA.

Johnson Matthey intends to build a new production plant in Poland, where it secured a 43-hectare plot about 200 km west of Warsaw. The production output will be up to 100,000 tonnes per year with an initial stage for 10,000 tonnes per year. Commercial production will start in 2021/2022.

"Location in Poland secured with potential for up to 100,000 MTpa plant capacity; initial 10,000 MTpa plant construction expected to start this year

JM announces that its first commercial scale eLNO manufacturing plant will be located in Konin, Poland, about 200 km west of Warsaw. JM has entered into an agreement to purchase a 43 hectare plot which gives us the potential to expand our eLNO manufacturing capacity to up to 100,000 MT per annum. This will enable JM to scale up its operations in line with anticipated customer demand for eLNO.

JM has previously announced its plans to invest in its first 10,000 MT per annum commercial plant and is pleased to have secured the Konin site which places JM’s operations at the heart of Europe, close to major customers in the battery electric vehicle supply chain."

Assuming a few kg of cathode materials per kWh of cell capacity, 10,000 could be enough for maybe more than 3 GWh or 60-70,000 of 50 kWh battery packs. At full scale, it would be able to crank 30+ GWh.

Johnson Matthey didn't say who will be customers for eLNO, but close proximity to LG Chem in Poland and other battery manufacturers in this part of Europe means that there shouldn't be trouble in attracting customers.

The second, related announcement is the deal with Nemaska Lithium Inc., who agreed to supply Johnson Matthey with lithium hydroxide over ten years to match expanding demands of commercial production.

"Long term agreement with Nemaska Lithium for lithium hydroxide gives JM’s customers security of supply

In addition to this significant development regarding commercial scale eLNO manufacturing, JM has agreed a ten-year agreement with Nemaska Lithium for the supply of lithium hydroxide used in the manufacture of eLNO. This latest agreement builds on the collaboration between JM and Nemaska Lithium which began in 2016 and will support the commercialisation of eLNO. The agreement gives JM access to lithium hydroxide for eLNO with the volumes and phasing aligned to our production plans and gives our customers the knowledge that by choosing JM, they have a secure of supply of crucial lithium-containing raw materials for their battery cathode materials."

Commenting on the developments, Robert MacLeod, Chief Executive of Johnson Matthey said:

“These two developments that we have announced today demonstrate that we are well on track with the commercialisation of eLNO. Having applied our world class science to create eLNO technology that outperforms the market for customers, we are commercialising our technology for them through flexible, scalable manufacturing capacity in Poland and a secure supply of vital lithium-based raw materials. We are firmly delivering in line with our strategy for break out growth in Battery Materials and JM remains well placed for success as the global market for electric vehicles develops.”