The arrival of General Motors (GM) and the German giant BASF in the battery sector is a dream of Quebec, which wants to convince the automotive giants to come and assemble the main element of the battery of electric vehicles on Quebec soil.
With the construction of two cathode materials factories – a key component of the lithium-ion battery – the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, believes he has the tools in hand to seduce a cell manufacturer. scale, which has not yet been done.
“I think we may be able to convince American companies that it is batteries (cells) that they should export from Quebec rather than cathodes,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday. with The Press.
Along with Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne, Fitzgibbon confirmed the at least half a billion dollar plan by GM and South Korea’s Posco Chemicals to Bécancour, which will create 200 jobs. Last Friday, BASF announced a similar project in Centre-du-Québec.
“BASF’s announcement is really interesting,” says Michel Jébrak, professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at UQAM. “They are aiming for 10% of the product market for cathodes. »
The Bécancour industrial and port park is the place favored by the Legault government to develop the electrical sector.
Cathodes are considered the positive pole of the battery and their components account for about 40% of the cost of a cell, according to GM. The anodes constitute the negative pole of a lithium-ion battery.
BASF and GM link the Quebec ecosystem to the North American supply chain, according to MM. Fitzgibbon and Champagne, who promise that more “good news is to come”. The two orders of government say they are in discussion with celluliers.
What is new is that we are entering into a North American supply chain where we were not. Believe me […], it is quite complex. These news [BASF et GM] go around the world.
François-Philippe Champagne, Federal Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry
Quebec’s strategy aims to attract players from all stages, from the mine to the battery module.
Work to be done
Cell specialists generally locate near factories operated by major car manufacturers. Even though Quebec has no vehicle assembly plant, Mr. Fitzgibbon has not thrown in the towel.
“I haven’t given up on making cells for the American market,” he says. Transporting a cell from Quebec, I will argue that this can be done effectively. »
President and CEO of Propulsion Québec, Sarah Houde agrees. She believes that BASF and GM are the “missing links” to allow Quebec to be a “critical player” in the cell niche.
There is a proximity with Ontario and Michigan. There is a critical mass of cars produced in these two regions, and we are close. A cell is not a hazardous material, it can be transported.
Sarah Houde. President and CEO of Propulsion Québec
On a smaller scale, there could be projects for commercial vehicle niches (city buses and trucks) as well as recreational vehicles (snowmobiles and personal watercraft), where Quebec has a strong presence, says Mr. Fitzgibbon.
Two celliers have so far put their cards on the table. Britishvolt, whose Canadian branch is headed by former Quebec premier Philippe Couillard, is already favoring Bécancour for its project.
“For a battery manufacturer, any development towards an ecosystem […] is positive news,” he said in an email to The Press.
Stromvolt, established in Ontario, is also considering Centre-du-Québec for the plant it wishes to build.
GM, Quebec and Ottawa were sparing with details about the financial support that will be granted to the American giant. Mr. Fitzgibbon explained that, for “structuring” projects, the Legault government could finance 20 to 25% of the project – up to 125 million – through forgivable loans. Ottawa should opt for a similar approach, according to Mr. Champagne.
If certain objectives are achieved, particularly in terms of job creation, part of the loan will be transformed into a grant. This model had been selected for the battery factory and the innovation center built by the Lion Electric Company in Mirabel, in the Laurentians.
The GM and Posco plant will serve to meet the needs of the Detroit giant. BASF will be able to sell its cathodes to a more diversified customer base.
“We will have the opportunity to expand and we hope [avoir l’occasion] to talk about it,” said GM Canada President and CEO Scott Bell, who took part in the announcement by videoconference.
Construction of the GM and Posco plant is expected to begin this year, with production expected to begin in 2025. Materials will be used to electrify three models in particular: the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq SUVs.
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With The Canadian Press
No BAPE in sight
General Motors intends to begin construction of its half-billion-dollar cathode plant by the end of the year, a tight schedule. Industrial projects of this scope are usually subject to the inquisitive scrutiny of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), which takes time. At a press conference, the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, indicated that the work done upstream on the characterization of the lands of the Bécancour industrial park facilitated this mode of accelerated implementation. In the office of the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, it is specified that the GM cathode plant will probably not be subject to the BAPE because of its production capacity. At the BAPE, it is mentioned that there are 38 project categories subject to the holding of a public consultation. In all cases, the BAPE is told, the organization is waiting for the green light from the Ministry of the Environment before initiating a public consultation.
Andre Dubuc, The Press
- GM had closed its Boisbriand assembly plant in the summer of 2002. With its cathode materials plant, the American giant is returning to Quebec.
- The Legault government plan provides for investments of up to 10 billion to develop the battery industry.
GOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC