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Johnson Matthey chooses Poland to produce new battery materials

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LONDON (Reuters) – Chemicals group Johnson Matthey has secured a site in Poland to produce ultra-high energy battery materials and signed a 10-year supply deal with Canada’s Nemaska Lithium as it seeks to grow its exposure to the electric vehicle market.

Plant construction should begin this year at Konin, about 200 kilometres west of Warsaw, and it would have the potential to produce up to 100,000 million tonnes per year, Johnson Matthey said in a statement on Thursday.

The is was on track to start commercial production in 2021-22, it added.

Johnson Matthey in 2017 said it was preparing for the shift to electric driving by investing 200 million pounds in developing next-generation technology. It also said it would build a plant in Europe but did not specify where.

It says its material known as enhanced lithium nickel oxide, or eLNO, has a higher energy density than existing technologies.

Johnson Matthey said the Polish plant would place the company’s “operations at the heart of Europe, close to major customers in the battery electric vehicle supply chain”.   

Poland, close to the major German car market, has already attracted investment from battery industry players.

Umicore, which competes with Johnson Matthey, is investing 1.38 billion zlotys (£274 million) in a plant manufacturing cathode materials, while LG Chem is already supplying some German carmakers with electric vehicle batteries made in Poland.

Countries around the world have been scrambling to secure a place in the burgeoning electric vehicle market so far dominated by China.

British government officials have stated their support for projects to develop lithium in Britain as one way of bolstering the economy following the country’s decision to leave the European Union, the world’s biggest trading bloc.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis in London, Additional reporting by Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Editing by Mark Potter)

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