Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

About APC

Canadian Battery Technology Could Make Electric Cars Profitable

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Electric and hybrid vehicles could be more common if only rechargeable batteries could be produced at a lower cost.

That's the goal of engineers and scientists at Quebec-based Clariant Canada Inc., École Polytechnique de Montréal, Université de Montréal (UdeM) and Western University who are testing a new chemical process that cuts manufacturing costs by at least half—a huge step in making electric vehicles affordable for consumers and profitable for manufacturers. Automotive Partnership Canada is contributing $5 million to the four-year project.

Clariant's patented process builds on Canada's pioneering expertise in lithium batteries and its abundance of low-cost minerals. It involves melting lithium, iron and phosphate commodity sources to create a reduced cost cathode (LiFePO4) with a potentially superior crystalline structure that increases a battery's performance.

"In the molten state, we can better control the quality and the purity of the material," says Dr. Guoxian Liang, director of research and development, Clariant Canada. "We can also use less expensive raw materials, like iron from Quebec, instead paying a higher price to source it internationally."

Project leader Dr. Gregory Patience at École Polytechnique de Montréal says the Université de Montréal and Clariant have already demonstrated that the technology works. "Now we're scaling up the process to prove to that it's possible to make 10,000 tons of this material per year, and at a price point that can blow away the competition."

"If we can use concentrated mineral from Quebec mines instead of chemical grade reactants and low-cost energy, we can drive the price from $15 to $20 per kg down to less than $10 a kg, while still producing a high quality product. That will really help to penetrate the market for electric vehicles and energy storage," adds Michel Gauthier, one of the inventors of the molten process who co-founded Phostech Lithium (now Clariant Canada) in 2001. He is now an adjunct professor at École Polytechnique de Montréal.

Read more +