New cathode manufacturing process said to deliver low-cost sustainable EV batteries

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In order to jump-start the energy transition and support the growing electric vehicle (EV) market, global lithium-ion battery capacity is expected to rise up to ten-fold over the next ten years.

The cathode active material (CAM) market alone is expected to grow to $189 billion by 2032 despite being the most expensive component in the production of lithium-ion batteries.

CAM is, however, proving to be a bottleneck in the supply chain so Improvements to the manufacturing of CAM are seen as critical to meeting the long-term demand for batteries and exceeding EV automakers’ cost reduction targets.

Advanced materials technology company Sylvatex has announced a new production method that delivers premium EV-grade CAM at dramatically lower costs and allows for a broader material input supply base to enable demand growth. The process, which is said to be simpler and more sustainable, is expected to enable a 25 percent reduction in CAM cost, a 40 percent reduction in plant capital requirements, and up to an 80 percent reduction in energy usage.

SVX recently closed its Series A funding of $8.4 million, with Catalus Capital serving as the lead investor, along with Amplify Capital and How Women Invest, and others to support commercialising and scaling its technology. The company has also received additional grant financing from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and others. SVX continues to collaborate with battery industry experts and collaborators at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory.

To meet increasing EV demands, about 100 additional CAM plants (or 5 million additional tons) will need to be in production by 2032. Today’s cathode production methods would require $200 billion in manufacturing capital deployed and twenty billion gallons of water consumed annually. By contrast, SVX’s new method brings sustainability to cathode manufacturing by eliminating water use while delivering substantial cost reductions and using 80 percent less energy.

“Today’s method for producing cathodes is extremely costly and requires an incredible amount of resources. If we're to realize the clean energy transition, battery production must scale dramatically, and evolve into a more cost-effective and sustainable process,” said Danny Kennedy, CEO of New Energy Nexus, an international clean energy accelerator that awarded SVX a grant to further develop its technology. “Clean energy innovators like SVX are the next generation of pioneers that will ultimately drive the growth of the EV market.”

“The existing EV supply chain requires innovation to deliver materials faster, more sustainably, and at a lower cost. SVX’s production technology is core to that vision,” said SVX founder and CEO Virginia Irwin Klausmeier. “As EV production scales exponentially over time, conventional methods are not economically feasible or environmentally viable; battery manufacturing plants are too capital-intensive, production is too expensive, and the immense amount of water required cannot be sustained in a time of extended droughts. We are working to show our industry a more sustainable path forward while reducing costs for battery production that future-proofs manufacturing for decades to come.” 

Over the past year the company has scaled its technology a hundred-fold from bench-scale to pilot-scale. SVX is collaborating with several top-tier EV automotive manufacturers and supply chain partners on qualifying materials and further scaling processes. SVX expects its technology to be deployed in cathode production worldwide.

SVX’s technology also enables flexibility on raw material inputs, such as transition or recycled metal oxides, which reduces geo-political and other supply chain risks while lowering the cost of the EV battery.

“We see a lot of growth potential in the EV battery space, especially in advanced manufacturing,” said Saif Qazi, Vice President of Catalus Capital, the company’s lead investor in its Series A. “Most process improvements reduce operating costs but increase capital costs; however, this innovation from SVX is unique because it reduces both capital costs and operating costs simultaneously, resulting in a substantial reduction in battery costs on a $/kWh basis.”