General Motors invests in Lithium Americas
General Motors is investing in the lithium producer Lithium Americas, thus securing access to the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, the largest known source of lithium in the USA and the third largest in the world. In addition, GM has secured its supply for another component for its electric cars with a German company.
Under the agreement, GM will invest $650 million (about €597 million) in Lithium Americas. However, it will be some time before the first deliveries, as the mining for lithium carbonate from the Thacker Pass mine will only begin in the second half of 2026.
Lithium Americas estimates that the lithium extracted and processed from the project will be enough for up to one million electric vehicles annually. As General Motors’ GMC Hummer EV uses a comparatively large battery with more than 200 kWh of energy content, the lithium may not reach the entire 1 million BEVs. On the other hand, the upcoming Ultium models will use smaller batteries.
What is clear, however, is that Lithium Americas will not supply any more customers from the Nevada mine for now – GM has secured “exclusive access to Phase 1 production,” according to the release. “GM has secured all the battery material we need to build more than 1 million EVs annually in North America in 2025, and our future production will increasingly draw from domestic resources like the site in Nevada we’re developing with Lithium Americas,” said GM CEO Mary Barra. “Direct sourcing critical EV raw materials and components from suppliers in North America and free-trade-agreement countries helps make our supply chain more secure, helps us manage cell costs, and creates jobs.”
As is often the case with raw material sourcing, it’s a future project because the mine is not yet operational. As such, Jonathan Evans, president and CEO of Lithium Americas, refers to the agreement with GM as a “major milestone in moving Thacker Pass toward production.”
Investment still conditional
GM will not release the funds immediately, and the money will be split into two tranches, with additional conditions each. The funds for the first tranche will be held in escrow until certain conditions are met, including the outcome of the Record of Decision currently pending in US District Court. When the conditions are met, the funds will be released and GM will become a shareholder of Lithium Americas. GM expects this to happen in late 2023. The second investment tranche is to be made in Lithium Americas’ US-focused lithium business following the separation of the US and Argentina businesses and is “subject to similar conditions.” One of them is that Lithium Americas must raise sufficient capital “to fund Thacker Pass development expenditures.”
If that happens, all the lithium from the first phase will go to GM and be processed into electric car batteries at GM’s four planned cell factories – one in operation, two under construction and one in planning. After the first phase, GM also has a right of first offer for Phase 2 production.
But it’s not just lithium procurement that General Motors has now secured: there’s also an update on General Motors’ collaboration with Vacuumschmelze (VAC), a German company specializing in magnetic materials, which was announced at the end of 2021. VAC has signed a binding, long-term supply agreement with GM to produce rare earth permanent magnets in North America.
Under the agreement, VAC will establish a manufacturing facility in North America to produce permanent magnets for electric motors used in a range of GM electric vehicles starting in 2025. Specifically mentioned are the Chevrolet Silverado EV, Blazer EV and Equinox EV, the Cadillac Lyriq, and the GMC Sierra EV and Hummer EV models in both pickup and SUV versions – in other words, nearly all Ultium models introduced to date.
“The demand for rare earth permanent magnets and supporting technologies is intensifying at an unprecedented rate as the world shifts to sustainable clean energy. VAC is extremely excited to be partnering with General Motors to take this important step to ensure the realization of GM’s all-electric future,” said Alexander Barcza, VAC Vice President of Permanent Magnets.
gm.com, lithiumamericas.com (both lithium investment), vacuumschmelze.com (VAC agreement)
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