New Ionway investment cements Poland’s position as key EV battery hub

Batteries for EVs, and their components, are an increasingly important sector of the Polish manufacturing sector.

Poland faces a pivotal parliamentary election on October 15, with the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) running neck and neck, according to the latest opinion polls, with the largest opposition grouping, Civic Coalition.

Neither major party looks set to receive enough votes to claim a majority in parliament, making protracted coalition talks a certainty and even a second election a distinct possibility.

Major investors in the country, however, appear to be unfazed. The latest global giant to commit to Poland is Volkswagen, which on October 7 announced that it intends to construct a cathode active material (CAM) production plant at Nysa in the south east of the country close to the border with Czechia.

CAMs are high purity chemicals that define the output and application of different types of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy storage.

The plant is a joint venture between Volkswagen’s PowerCo and Belgian materials firm Umicore, and will be developed under the Ionway brand. It is the latest in a series of moves by European automotive firms designed to bring as much of the EV production process closer to home. The new plant will be built adjacent an existing Umicore CAM plant.

The Polish government is heavily backing the investment in Nysa, which is expected to create about 900 future-proof industry jobs towards the end of the decade, and has offered Ionway 350 million euros in cash grants under the Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework (TCTF) as part of a total investment of up to 1.7 billion euros by the end of the decade.

The TCTF fosters support measures in sectors which are key for the transition to a net-zero economy in line with the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Strategic location

“The strategic location of the joint venture’s battery materials plant in Poland, right next to Umicore’s own battery materials plant, which is still unique in Europe, will further enable the transition to electric driving that is truly sustainable,” says Mathias Miedreich, CEO of Umicore.

Besides the strategic location, the firm also cited the ready availability of skilled labour and renewable energy sources for production as motives for selecting Nysa. Moreover, the production facility will benefit from Umicore’s nearby CAM know-how in Nysa and easy access to raw materials from Umicore’s refining operations in Finland.

Preparation of the site, engineering, and permitting are ongoing. Production at the plant is expected to begin as soon as construction is completed.

“We are excited by this announcement, as it marks the operational first step of Ionway and an important step in the expansion of Umicore’s European local-for-local integrated battery materials value chain,” adds Miedreich.

A key sector of the Polish economy

According to Jörg Teichmann, Chief Purchasing Officer of PowerCo, “Ionway gives both PowerCo and Umicore a significant first-mover advantage in the fast-growing e-mobility market in Europe.

“PowerCo has now co-created what it was looking for: a battery materials supplier to secure and build-up manufacturing capacity for reliable and cost-competitive precursor and cathode material production based on responsibly sourced raw materials.”

Batteries for EVs, and their components, are an increasingly important sector of the Polish manufacturing sector. Poland is currently home to the largest car battery factory in Europe, LG Energy’s plant in Biskupice Podgórne near Wrocław. Other plants, developed by South Korea’s SK Nexilis and Germany’s Mercedes-Benz are currently under construction.

According to the US International Trade Administration, Poland’s automotive industry accounts for more than 11 per cent the total value of the country’s production and is second only to the food industry.

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