Toyota/Panasonic battery JV inks US lithium supply deal

A Toyota Motor/Panasonic joint venture will buy lithium from Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge mining project and use the metal to build EV batteries in the United States, a media report said.

The binding supply deal was Ioneer’s second in less than a month and a strong vote of confidence in a project that is rushing to become the first new US source of the battery metal in decades, Reuters reported.

According to the report, Ioneer would supply 4,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually for five years to Prime Planet Energy & Solutions (PPES), which was founded in 2020 by Toyota and Panasonic to better compete with battery market leader Contemporary Amperex. Technology (CATL).

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2025, a timeline that depends in part on Ioneer obtaining financing and permits, according to Reuters.

The deal included a commitment from PPES that Ioneer lithium would be used to build EV battery components in the US for the domestic EV market. Japan-based PPES had reportedly considered building a battery plant in western North Carolina.

“The whole purpose of this agreement is for this lithium to be used in the United States,” Ioneer chairman James Calaway told Reuters.

The news agency added that a proposed expansion of the US EV tax credit would require lithium and other EV minerals to be sourced domestically or from allies by 2023. That potential change, which is being debated in Congress, had the emerging US development plans of battery and automakers.

“Having an agreement with Ioneer provides PPES a first step in securing a US supply of lithium,” Reuters quoted PPES president Hiroaki Koda as saying. He added that he had “confidence in Ioneer’s technology”.

The amount of lithium ioner that PPES would provide was enough to make about 150,000 EVs from batteries annually, though that number would vary based on design and other factors, the report said.

Australia-based Ioneer aims to produce approximately 21,000 tons of lithium annually in Nevada from 2025. It signed a supply deal with Ford in mid-July and with South Korea’s Ecopro last year, according to Reuters.

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