This image, from July 2021, shows a Citroen e-C4 electric vehicle on display at a showroom in Paris, France. Citroen is a brand of Stellantis, one of the world’s biggest automakers. Benjamin Girette | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Stellantis is turning to Australia as it looks to procure the materials needed for its electric vehicle strategy in the years ahead.
On Monday, the automaker said a non-binding memorandum of understanding related to the “future sale of quantities of battery grade nickel and cobalt sulphate products” had been signed with Sydney-listed GME Resources Limited.
According to Stellantis, the MoU is centered around materials sourced from the NiWest Nickel-Cobalt Project, which has been earmarked for development in Western Australia.
In a statement, the firm described NiWest as an operation that would produce around 90,000 tons of “battery grade nickel and cobalt sulphate” for the EV market each year.
Stellantis said that, so far, over 30 million Australian dollars (around $18.95 million) had been “invested into drilling, metallurgical test work and development studies.” A definitive feasibility study for the project is due to begin this month.
In its statement Monday, Stellantis — whose brands include Fiat, Chrysler and Citroen — referenced its goal of all passenger sales in Europe being battery electric by the year 2030. In the U.S., it wants a “50% passenger car and light-duty truck BEV sales mix” within the same timeframe.
“Securing the raw material sources and battery supply will strengthen Stellantis’ value chain for electric vehicle battery production,” Maxime Picat, chief purchasing and supply chain officer at Stellantis, said.
Stellantis’ electric vehicle plans put it in competition with firms such as Elon Musk’s Tesla as well as companies like Volkswagen, Ford and GM.
According to the International Energy Agency, electric vehicle sales are on course to hit an all-time high this year. The sector’s expansion and other factors are creating pressure points when it comes to the supply of the batteries crucial for EVs.
“The rapid increase in EV sales during the pandemic has tested the resilience of battery supply chains, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has further exacerbated the challenge,” the IEA notes, adding that prices of materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel “have surged.”
“In May 2022, lithium prices were over seven times higher than at the start of 2021,” it adds. “Unprecedented battery demand and a lack of structural investment in new supply capacity are key factors.”
In April, the CEO and president of Volvo Cars predicted that scarcity of battery supply would become a pressing issue for his sector, telling CNBC the firm had made investments that would help it gain a foothold in the market.
“Recently, we made a reasonably substantial investment with Northvolt, so that we are in control of our own battery supply as we go forward,” Jim Rowan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe”.
“I think battery supply is going to be one of the things that comes into scarce supply in the years to come,” Rowan added.
“And that’s one of the reasons we made that substantial investment with Northvolt: So that we can be in control not just of the supply, but we can actually start to develop our own battery chemistry and production facilities.”
Renault’s charging plans
Monday also saw Mobilize, a brand of the Renault Group, announce plans to roll out an ultra-fast charging network for EVs in the European market. Mobilize Fast Charge, as it’s known, will consist of 200 sites in Europe by the middle of 2024 and “be open to all electric vehicles.”
The development of adequate charging options is seen as being crucial when it comes to challenging perceptions surrounding range anxiety, a term that refers to the idea that electric vehicles aren’t able to undertake long journeys without losing power and getting stranded.
According to Mobilize, the network in Europe will enable drivers to charge their vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Most of the stations will be at Renault dealerships less than 5 minutes from a motorway or expressway exit,” it added.