A $ 2 billion project that hits the mark for François Legault

In addition to mining, primary and secondary processing, the goal of the Quebec battery strategy is to attract here a manufacturer of cathode, anode, and cell materials to manufacture or recycle batteries.

Quebec is preparing to take out the heavy artillery to justify an investment of 2 billion public funds within 5 to 10 years in its electricity sector, if we trust the study by McKinsey, commissioned by Investissement Québec ( IQ), of which Le Journal has obtained a copy.

No less than 25,000 jobs, including 12,000 related to mines at $ 120,000 per year in the regions. Revenue of $ 5.3 billion. Rivians, Fiat-Chrysler, Mercedes, who would only wait for Quebec to develop its battery industry to no longer depend on the Korean LG Chem, can we read in the document.

“For me, the electrification project, as a whole, is as important as the power stations would have been at the time, in the 1960s,” went so far as to say the Minister of the Economy, Pierre. Fitzgibbon, last Friday, on QUB radio.

“Oil of XXI th century”

Ore extraction, primary processing, secondary processing, recycling of batteries, manufacturing of commercial vehicles … the battery industry is as salivating for the Legault government as for the Paccars, Novabus, and La Compagnie Électrique Lion, who are in Quebec.

Robert Bourassa had his Baie-James. Jean Charest, his Plan Nord. François Legault, his Saint-Laurent Project … He now has his “Electric Plan”.

“It’s a social project, which can give Quebec an incredible global positioning,” said its Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. 

To bring it to life, the state will have to inject $ 2 billion out of the $ 7 billion.

Like many industries, this one could be greedy.

In the state of Michigan, the Korean LG Chem and Chinese A123 have been entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars in government loans and credits. The same goes for tax incentives for Tesla in Nevada, notes the McKinsey study.  

Quebec drums

To move forward, Investissement Québec (IQ) has recruited the former chief executive officer of the Hydro-Québec Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage, Karim Zaghib, as “strategic advisor”.

Two years after selling its electric motor subsidiary TM4 to the equipment manufacturer Dana for $ 165 million, Hydro-Quebec retains 45% of the joint venture and continues to inject money into it to have its say.

“It is the oil of XXI th century, which we will soon need to electrify boats and planes,” suggests Daniel Breton, CEO of Electric Mobility Canada.

According to him, Quebec does well to bet on this sector. “The vast majority of batteries come from Asia, which makes the development of new products problematic. We have seen it with COVID-19, ”he adds.

“In addition to mining, primary and secondary processing, the aim of the battery strategy is to attract to Quebec a manufacturer of cathode, anode and cell materials”, specifies Simon Thibault, director. of the Propulsion Quebec Battery Sector.

GM, Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen are hungry for batteries and have come to realize that moving the supply chain is a real headache. Europe does not have the natural resources. Quebec, yes.

“What goes into the composition of batteries comes from China (graphite), Congo (cobalt), South America (lithium), Indonesia (nickel), it hardly meets any environmental standard”, underlines Mr. Thibault.

Seducing the giants

Quebec must approach the manufacturers Panasonic, Northvolt, and Samsung, which rely on clean energy and are looking for brains, says the study requested by Investissement Quebec.

Our territory has the raw materials, its factories run on clean energy and its skilled workforce is known worldwide, according to Pierre Langlois, consultant in sustainable mobility.

“Most experts agree that in 2024 and 2025, lithium factories will be thirsty for raw material. It is promising. It has to be done correctly, however, ”he concludes.

–With the collaboration of Yves Daoust

THREE QUESTIONS FOR THE CEO OF ÉLECTRIQUE LION, MARIO BÉDARD     

What would be the advantages of having this sector in Quebec?

We would avoid all transportation costs. The costs would be reduced. It could be a great use of our natural resources. If we checked the cell [battery], I would find that really interesting. If we had a Quebec cell, we would buy it.

Is there really a demand for batteries?

There are a lot of young Quebec companies that are unable to buy batteries. I am called two or three times a week to ask me if I can sell batteries, but we cannot because those who supply them to me have a say in the end customers.

Are your “100% electric” buses and trucks selling well?

There are over 300 electric buses on the roads in North America. We’re going to deliver another 200 or 300 next year. Our first trucks will be delivered in the coming months. We have a hundred to deliver. 

THE LITHIUM-ION AND ELECTRIC BATTERY SECTOR. FROM EXTRACTION TO ASSEMBLY …

1. Ore extraction

First, we have to extract the ore. You have to find nickel, cobalt, graphite, or lithium in the belly of the earth. These mining workers earn an average of $ 120,000 per year, according to the McKinsey study.

2. First transformation

In most cases, the first processing takes place on the site of the mine. This phase is called the concentration of the ore. It makes it possible to obtain a concentrate.

3. Second transformation

For the second transformation, the material is often brought elsewhere. In the case of Nemaska ​​Lithium, it leaves James Bay for a plant in Shawinigan. For Nouveau Monde Graphite, it leaves Saint-Michel-des-Saints for Bécancour. This gives rise to “precursor” materials.

4. Manufacture of active materials

From this moment, two branches are formed. 

The first, the cathode (the equivalent of the plus on the battery), is made of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese. It is in this part of the battery that the metals which are valuable on the markets are found.

The second is the anode (the equivalent at least on a battery). This is where the graphite is found.

5. Cellaring

There are two main types of battery cells. There is the one we have in our cell phones, flat, and the one that is cylindrical, a bit like an AA battery.

6. Insertion in modules

The cells are grouped into modules. These are the modules that the big battery players like Panasonic and LG Chem provide to electric vehicle manufacturers, like The Lion Electric Company.

7. Put in the “battery pack”

Basically, the “battery pack” is what you see when you open the hood of an electric vehicle. These are three things: the modules, the module shell, and the battery management system, which controls its temperature.

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