LG Chem breaks ground on largest cathode material plant in US

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : December 20, 2023, 17:52 Updated : December 21, 2023, 17:46
Courtesy of LG Chem
[Courtesy of LG Chem]
SEOUL -- South Korea's major chemical company LG Chem has started the construction of the largest cathode plant in the United States. By 2026, the factory in Tennessee will have an annual production capacity of 60,000 tons of cathodes for high-performance batteries that can power about 600,000 electric vehicles with a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Along with anodes, cathodes are used to help the conduction of electricity through electrolyte materials. Demands for cathodes are rising thanks to the increased popularity of electric vehicles (EVs). Data released by global market research firm TrendForce showed that the annual demand for cathodes is estimated to reach 2.15 million tons by 2025. 

LG Chem said the construction for its plant located in Clarksville, Tennessee began on December 19. A total of two trillion won ($1.6 billion) would be injected for the factory set to start mass production in 2026. Depending on the situation, the South Korean company can expand its capacity to 120,000 tons.

Clarksville was picked as the right place for the cathode plant "due to its proximity to key customers, ease of transporting raw materials, and active cooperation of the state and local governments," LG Chem said. The plant will produce NCMA cathode materials, which is an upgraded model of NCM that contains nickel, cobalt, and manganese. The proportion of nickel is high so that battery producers can save costs and extend the driving range. NCMA increases stability by adding aluminum.

"With the Tennessee cathode material plant as the center, LG Chem will undoubtedly leap to become the top cathode material supplier in North America," said LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol.

According to data provided by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), South Korea's cathode exports to the U.S. for the first seven months in 2023 almost tripled to $1.83 billion from the same period a year ago. In July 2022, LG Chem signed a long-term agreement with General Motors to supply NCMA cathode active materials between the second half of 2022 and 2030 to cell plants run by Ultium Cells, a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution, the battery-making wing of LG Group, in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the American subsidiary of LGES has secured projects to establish 10 gigawatt-hour energy storage systems (ESSs) across the U.S. Renewable energy sources stored at the ESSs can be used to power about 150,000 EVs annually.
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