General Motors on Wednesday framed its plan to build a North American plant to process battery metals for electric vehicles as a giant step toward supply chain independence.
“We need to control our own destiny, especially when it comes to battery production. That’s why we’re pursuing a North America-focused vertical integration strategy for our proprietary platform,” said Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president for supply chain, in a call with reporters.
But the future plant, to be built in a joint venture with South Korean industrial giant Posco in an as-yet undisclosed location, will merely represent a baby step. If it opens in 2024 as planned, it will almost certainly feature a core flaw: a continued dependence on China. The new cathode plant will need to ship in chemical precursors from somewhere else and process them into nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminum cathodes for GM’s Ultium batteries. That somewhere else is likely to be mostly China.
China produces almost all the world’s refined manganese and much of the processed cobalt, nickel, lithium and graphite, and supplies these refined materials to virtually all the world’s battery makers, from Silicon Valley startups to establishment giants, to automakers like Tesla. While anyone ...