Ionway to build cathode plant in Poland

Ionway, the newly established battery materials joint venture between Volkswagen and Umicore, has identified its first site for the production of cathode materials. The new plant will be built in Nysa, Poland, and will be adjacent to Umicore's existing cathode materials plant. Construction is scheduled to begin as soon as the approval process is completed.

Image: Volkswagen AG

The Brussels-based joint venture Ionway officially started operations at the end of last week. When the joint venture between PowerCo and Umicore was first announced in December 2021, it was said that production of 20 GWh would start in 2025, with a final capacity of 160 GWh. The location of the production was not mentioned at the time.

In September 2022, Umicore had opened its own cathode material production in Nysa in Poland – among the customers for cathode material is ACC, the battery joint venture of Stellantis, Total and Mercedes-Benz. Umicore is running this project on its own in parallel with Ionway’s plans – even though there are of course advantages in logistics and personnel recruitment from locating both projects at the same site.

According to current information, 900 jobs are to be created at Ionway by the end of the decade. Site preparation, planning and permitting are currently underway. The construction work itself is to begin as soon as the approval process has been completed. VW does not specify an expected time frame for this in the communication, nor does it mention a planned start of production at the Ionway plant – as mentioned above, the indication of 2025 still dates from December 2021. Volkswagen confirms, however, that the cell production planned for 2025 at the PowerCo battery plant in Salzgitter is secured “from the existing production capacity of Umicore in Nysa”.

However, the decision to locate the plant was not only made because of the existing Umicore plant, VW also cites in the statement the “strategic location with access to renewable energy sources for production as well as on qualified skilled labour and the support of the Polish government”. The government is supporting the factory with €350 million in cash grants. Of the estimated 1.7 billion euros, PowerCo and Umicore will thus have to raise 1.35 billion euros themselves by the end of the decade.

With Umicore’s CAM plant in the neighbourhood, the Ionway plant will also be able to benefit from access to raw materials from Umicore’s refineries in Finland. Ionway plans to produce “high performance CAM in Poland and supply it to PowerCo’s European battery cell gigafactories”. Where the also announced production of precursor materials (called pCAM) will be located has not yet been decided. According to VW, this decision will be announced at a later date.

“We are excited with today’s announcement, as it marks the operational first step of IONWAY and an important step in the expansion of Umicore’s European local-for-local integrated battery materials value chain,” says Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore. “We are thankful for the Polish government’s support in IONWAY’s choice for Nysa. The strategic location of the joint venture’s battery materials plant in Poland, right next to Umicore’s own battery materials plant, which is still unique in Europe, will further enable the transition to electric driving that is truly sustainable.”

“Ionway gives both PowerCo and Umicore a significant first-mover advantage in the fast-growing e-mobility market in Europe,” said Jörg Teichmann, PowerCo’s Chief Purchasing Officer. “PowerCo has now co-created what it was looking for: a battery materials supplier to secure and build-up manufacturing capacity for reliable and cost-competitive precursor and cathode material production based on responsibly sourced raw materials.”,


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