South Korea’s Solus Advanced Materials is opening a new electric vehicle battery materials plant in Quebec as it expands into North America, further cementing the province’s position as a hub for next-generation transport manufacturing.
Solus’s Volta Energy Solutions subsidiary will launch a battery copper foil factory for electric vehicles in Granby, Que., it said in a news release Tuesday. It would be the first such facility in Canada.
No financial terms of the investment were disclosed in the release but the Quebec government said in its own statement that Volta’s project is valued at $750-million and that it would create 260 jobs. Quebec is offering a partly-forgivable loan to the company worth $150-million. Federal assistance hasn’t yet been finalized.
“With its strategic geographical location providing privileged access to the North American market and its strong political commitment to making electric vehicle battery production a key sector of its economy, Quebec is the ideal location for Volta’s first North American factory,” Solus Chairman Dejae Chin said in the company’s statement.
Battery copper foil is a key component of lithium ion batteries that helps increase the mileage of EVs. Volta expects to start mass production of the material in 2026 to meet growing demand from customers in North America.
The company said it plans to produce 25,000 tons of foil per year, increasing to 63,000 tons per year in a second phase expansion. That’s enough for 2.5 million electric vehicles, it said.
Quebec has been pushing hard to make the province a hub for EV battery development, luring companies with its low-carbon hydroelectricity and financial backing in tandem with the federal government. Canada is seeking to compete with a U.S. cleantech industry that has been turbocharged over the past year by incentives that are part of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
That legislation includes US$369-billion in funding for green energy and related technology as well as EVs and energy efficiency measures. Ottawa and provincial governments have responded with billions of dollars in public funding to lure battery makers and suppliers to building plants in Quebec and Ontario.
The effort has yielded results in terms of private sector commitments. But the ultimate benefit to taxpayers as an industrial strategy might not be clear for years.
South Korean companies, which have developed strong expertise in the EV sector, have been among the most active in choosing Canada to sell into the North American market. In June, LG Energy Solution and Stellantis NV reached a deal with those governments for as much as $15-billion in subsidies to restart construction on their EV battery factory in Windsor, Ont.
In Quebec, General Motors Co. is partnering with South Korean battery material maker Posco Chemical Co. Ltd. on a new cathode factory in Bécancour. Ford Motor Co. announced last month that it’s working with South Korea’s EcoProBM and SK On Co Ltd. on a $1.2-billion plant that would produce EV battery materials in that same city, backed by $644-million in public funding.
At an event Tuesday organized for the Volta announcement, Quebec Premier François Legault defended his government’s industrial strategy, saying the province is “not giving a gift” to anyone. Investments are made because the government calculates that the economic benefits will outweigh the amount of public backing provided, he said.
“New manufacturing plants will be announced in coming years. And if we don’t incentivize them, they will be built elsewhere than Quebec,” Mr. Legault said. “It’s a mistake to think that it’s a good idea to do nothing and wait.”