Umicore triples capacity for rechargeable battery cathode materials


The Belgian materials technology and recycling group Umicore announced it was stepping up its capacity expansion investments for NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) cathode materials. The acceleration is required to meet a surge in demand for materials used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Umicore will deploy its latest generation proprietary production technologies which will enable the company to triple existing capacity by the end of 2018 across a broad range of material grades. These are in compliance with the very highest quality standards for the automotive industry. The new capacity should start coming on stream in the second half of 2017.

160 million euro investment

The expansion programme entails investments of some 160 million euro over a period of three years at the company’s existing facilities in Cheonan (South Korea) and Jiangmen (China), as well as greenfield investments on adjacent land in both locations.

“We are excited by the acceleration of demand”, says Marc Grynberg, CEO of Umicore. “Thanks to the hard work of our teams in the past several years, we are well prepared to add significant capacity fast in support of our customers’ growth. Umicore has a unique position in cathode materials and these investments underscore our ambition to be a global leader in materials that enable clean mobility.”

EV market to shift up a gear in 2017

Grynberg’s comments published in De Tijd newspaper were more optimistic than six months ago. “In the autumn of 2015, we predicted an acceleration of the market after 2020,” compares the CEO. “Today, we are forecasting this acceleration to begin as early as 2017. Especially in China, this trend is noticeable. The air quality problems are literally palpable there and the Chinese government is therefore strongly encouraging incentives to use electric vehicles. In Europe, too, we will soon get stricter CO2 standards.”

The number of electrified vehicle models being launched has been surging in recent months and the penetration of these vehicles, ranging from mild hybrid cars to fully electric models, is projected to grow at an increasingly fast pace. There is also a trend towards electrification of vehicles used for public transportation such as electric buses. Umicore’s NMC cathode materials are key ingredients in enabling the improvements required for battery technology to increase driving range and reduce the total cost of electrified vehicle ownership.

Umicore employs 10,400 people

The Umicore Group has industrial operations on all continents and serves a global customer base. It generated a turnover of 10.4 billion euro (2.6 billion euro excluding metal) in 2015. Umicore currently employs 10,400 people.

The global materials technology and recycling group Umicore generates the majority of its revenues from and dedicates most of its R&D efforts to clean technologies, such as emission control catalysts, materials for rechargeable batteries and recycling.