General Motors returns to Quebec to manufacture “cathode active material”

GM will build a $500 million plant in Bécancour to be an integral part of EV batteries

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General Motors Co. is planning a return to Quebec, but this time it will manufacture cathodes instead of Camaros.

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Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne summoned reporters to a Chevrolet dealership in Montreal on March 7 to announce that GM had agreed build a $500 million plant in Bécancour to manufacture cathode active material, or CAM, an integral component of electric car batteries.

“If you want to build a carbon-free future, Canada has to be part of the equation,” said Champagne, who was joined virtually by his Quebec counterpart, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and Scott Bell, president and CEO of the unit. Canadian GM.

Neither Champagne nor Fitzgibbon have revealed how much public money will be used to support the project. GM said in a press release that it was “working with” both governments to build the facility, as well as South Korea’s POSCO Chemical Co. Construction will begin immediately and the plant should be ready for production. from CAM in 2025, Bell said. at the press conference.

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“It’s a great day, because we are witnessing the return of GM to Quebec after 20 years,” Champagne said, alluding to GM’s decision in 2001 to close a plant in Ste. Thérèse who built Camaros and Firebirds, putting 1,200 people out of work. The plant was the only automobile assembly plant in Quebec at the time, and many called for the “end of the automobile industry in Quebec”.

GM’s announcement is part of a broader effort to make Canada a player as the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles. The federal government, Ontario and Quebec say they are committed to tapping into Canada’s abundance of raw materials critical to battery production, including cobalt, nickel, graphite and lithium.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government also aims to position Canada as an industry leader in the production of batteries for electric vehicles.

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According to Invest in CanadaCanada ranks fourth in the world for raw materials for electric vehicles and is expected to rise to third by 2025. That puts Canada in an “enviable” position, Champagne said.

“The car of the future shouldn’t just be electric, it should be green,” Champagne said. “It doesn’t make much sense to export minerals [from] Africa, to refine them in Asia, and produce batteries with coal.

If you want to build a zero-carbon future, Canada must be part of the equation

Francois Philippe Champagne

Admittedly, a “green” auto industry is unlikely to employ as many people as in the past. The new plant in Quebec should create 200 jobs.

Bécancourt “will be a very important link to our all-electric future,” Bell said, adding that GM chose the municipality, about 180 kilometers northeast of Montreal, because it could offer low-emission electricity, as well than the proximity of resources and assembly. plants. Bell noted that construction of the facility would proceed on an “aggressive schedule,” moving forward despite pandemic-induced labor shortages.

Asked about GM’s plans for recycling used batteries, another area where Canadian officials see an opportunity, Bell said “there is a lot of work going on in this area of ​​the business.”

He added: “The reality of the world is that our batteries still have a lot of life, even after the vehicle.”

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