Ford announces lithium deals for growing EV fleet

May 23, 2023

Ford Motor Co. is the latest automaker to make a bold move to secure lithium and other critical minerals needed to produce electric vehicles (EV). The company announced that it had finalized a number of deals to buy lithium from projects in Canada and Chile.

Among those are deals with Albemarle, the world's top producer, Chile's SQM and Canada's Nemaska Lithium, according to separate announcements.

Bloomberg News reported that the agreements will look to take advantage of President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which contains incentives for battery manufacturing and sourcing of materials from the United States and its allies.

Albemarle, the world’s largest lithium producer, said that it plans to supply Ford with 100 kt (110,000 st) of lithium hydroxide for five years to the end of 2030, enough for 3 million EVs in total. Three of the supply deals for Ford have been struck with newcomers to the lithium market — EnergySource Minerals, Compass Minerals and Nemaska Lithium, a joint venture that includes US producer Livent and filed for bankruptcy protection four years ago — which come with risks of project delays.

The availability and cost of crucial battery materials, including nickel and cobalt, have been key concerns for years among EV makers trying to build out their electric lineups.

Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley said the limiting factor is the processing of the material.

“The mining part is not the constraint. It's really the processing,” Farley told Bloomberg Television. “So turning those raw materials, especially lithium and nickel, into processed materials we can put into a slurry to make the cells themselves.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Ford has announced direct deals with battery metals producers, following a series of agreements announced in July. The latest pacts include:

-SQM ensuring supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide that will help Ford vehicles qualify for consumer tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act

-Canada's Nemaska Lithium delivering as much as 13,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year, with Ford becoming the first customer of the company backed by Quebec's government and Livent, the world's third-largest lithium producer

-EnergySource Minerals and Compass Minerals supplying lithium products they expect to produce in California and Utah, respectively, starting in 2025

Rival General Motors recently pledged to invest $650 million in Lithium Americas, a U.S. project developer, and making a near $200 million prepayment to Livent to secure battery raw materials.

Photo credit: Ford Motor Company


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