General Motors’ Push Towards Cheaper BEV Battery Costs

General Motors is hoping to cut the cost of producing BEV battery packs by adding mining giant Vale to its list of essential material suppliers.

Reuters reports that Vale will supply GM with battery-grade nickel for future electric vehicles, starting in 2026. The automaker is hoping to cut the cost of its Ultium battery cells to less than $70 per kilowatt-hour “in mid to late decade,” according to GM executive Doug Parks, who heads up the global product development, purchasing and supply chain.

The average industry cost for cells with nickel-based cathodes has risen to $140 per kWh over the past year, as raw material prices have soared. Parks told the news agency that GM is exploring the use of less expensive lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells to help reduce costs.

The Vale deal is expected to supply GM with enough refined nickel for up to 350,000 EVs a year. GM is also testing lithium metal and pure silicon anodes to increase energy storage capacity, as well as solid electrolytes.

Under a long-term supply agreement, Vale Canada will provide GM with battery-grade nickel sulfate, a key ingredient in battery cathodes, from a proposed plant in Becancour, Quebec. The agreement is the latest in a series of GM deals aimed at securing the supply of essential battery minerals as the automaker ramps up electric vehicle production.

The automaker has said it will have the capacity to build one million BEVs in North America by 2025 and that it has signed agreements with at least 20 battery materials companies, including Livent and Glencore, to supply these vehicles.

Parks also pointed out that the deal with the Canadian supplier “will help support EV eligibility for consumer incentives under the new clean energy tax credits in the US.” Vale has existing agreements to supply nickel to Tesla and Ford, as well as Swedish battery start-up Northvolt.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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