Königswarter & Ebell, a fully-owned German subsidiary of Australian startup Pure Battery Technologies (PBT) has been awarded a €36.7 million ($57.45 million) venture debt loan by the European Investment Bank. The funds, secured through the European funding programme “InvestEU,” will be used to build a commercial demonstration plant for the production of active precursor cathode material (pCAM) for electric car batteries.
The company plans to convert a derelict, brownfield industrial site owned by subsidiary Königswarter & Ebell in Hagen near Cologne, West Germany, into the commercial manufacturing site.
Precursor cathode active material or pCAM is used in the production of advanced lithium-ion cells with nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC) chemistry.
The main difference between PBL’s process and conventional processes for producing pCAM is its simplicity. PBT’s patented ‘NMC Direct’ approach does not separate nickel, cobalt and manganese to produce metals and metal salts before recombining them in the pCAM – a process which is energy-intensive, complicated, and expensive. Instead, the technology combines selective leaching and purification processes to produce pCAM directly.
Importantly, thePBT process can use recycled battery material known as black mass as a feedstock, a major bonus for the EU which is pushing a circular economy approach.
In total, PBT claims the carbon emissions from its pCAM production process are 70% less than the current industry average.
“With its resource-friendly and innovative approach, the PBT refinery in Germany is well positioned to become a key player in the electric vehicle battery market in Europe,” European Investment Bank Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said. “As it stands, the skyrocketing demand for electric vehicle batteries is likely to cause a major pCAM supply bottleneck.”
PBT in Australia
Alongside the German plant, PBT is working to build a pCAM hub in Western Australia. The hub will be established in Kalgoorlie and will initially produce 50,000 tonnes per annum of precursor Cathode Active Material – enough to produce up to 500,000 lithium-ion EV batteries.
The project, which is being pursued in partnership with Poseidon Nickel, secured a $119 million grant from the Australian government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative earlier this year.
PBT is headquartered in Brisbane, with its German subsidiary Königswarter & Ebell based in Ettlingen. The company was founded in 2017 to commercialise the battery processing breakthrough made at the University of Queensland and currently employs around 50 people, including 35 in Germany.
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