Umicore & Idemitsu Kosan join solid-state battery race

Belgian materials technology and recycling group Umicore and Japan’s energy company Idemitsu Kosan have agreed to develop high-performance materials for solid-state batteries jointly. Umicore will bring its expertise in cathode active materials (CAM) and banks on Idemitsu Kosan’s know-how in solid electrolytes.

Together Umicore and Idemitsu aim to develop a catholyte that combines cathode active materials and solid electrolytes. The more “intimate” the contact between these two components, the better the performance of an all-solid-state battery (ASSB), explain the companies.

Regarding expertise, Idemitsu Kosan has established a method for manufacturing high-purity lithium sulfide, which it developed in its petrochemical business. It holds many patents for solid electrolytes that use lithium sulfide as their raw material.

Umicore, on the other hand, says it has been working on solid-state CAM chemistries since 2017 and holds multiple key patents. In 2017, Umicore acquired three nickel-manganese-cobalt patent families for cathode materials from 3M. In May 2021, the company entered into a non-exclusive patent cross-licensing agreement with BASF covering a broad range of cathode materials and their precursors. The deal covers over 100 patent families filed in Europe, the US, China, Korea and Japan.

“Our partnership with Idemitsu enhances our innovation and technology leadership to support our customers in their clean mobility transformation through solid-state battery power,” says Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore.

The company also claims ties to major OEMs. In April, the Automotive Cells Company (ACC) battery cell joint venture between Stellantis, Total and Mercedes-Benz signed a long-term supply agreement for cathode materials in Europe.

It is unclear from today’s announcement if Umicore or Idemitsu were actively working with clients in the automotive sector regarding solid-state batteries.

At the same time, Umicore has been in strategic partnership with Volkswagen since December 2021 to work on “volume production of even more sustainable, cutting-edge batteries,” as Volkswagen put it at the time. As is well known, the company already cooperates with solid-state battery specialist QuantumScape. So for Umicore, at present, Volkswagen is planning to set up a joint venture to supply its future European cell factories with cathode material. Still, Miedreich commented at the time, the joint venture was “creating a strong environment for the development of next-generation battery material technologies and securing a considerable lead in this fast-growing market.”


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