battery sector | Hydro looking for an ally

At a time when the electric vehicle battery industry is rapidly evolving, Hydro-Québec is looking for an ally willing to invest to help the state-owned company commercialize what it bills as the “next big technological breakthrough.” , he learned The press.

Posted at 5:00 am

Julian Arsenal

Julian Arsenal
The press

According to our information, “quality” applicants, particularly Asian and European companies, have come forward since the process began a little less than a year ago. At this point no agreement has been reached.

Last year, Hydro-Québec hired Société Générale – one of France’s largest banks – to knock on various doors. A few dozen companies were contacted. A “highly confidential” 15-page presentation that The press was able to consult the center of excellence for transportation electrification and energy storage of the state-owned company based in Varennes, a southern suburb of Montreal.

“Hydro-Québec is seeking a partner to participate in its battery activities to complete the development and accelerate the commercialization of solid electrolyte batteries for electric vehicles,” the document reads.

When asked, the state-owned company replies that its research on a new generation of “all-solid-state batteries” has “reached a very high level of maturity” and that an agreement with a partner is “crucial” in order to hope that they “possibly” be found in electric vehicles.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY HYDRO-QUEBEC

Hydro-Québec’s center of excellence for electrification and energy storage in transportation is located in Varennes.

According to Hydro-Quebec, this is the “next big technological breakthrough,” particularly because it will significantly reduce battery weight. So we can increase the energy. The state-owned company argues that these batteries are safer because their composition does not contain any flammable liquid electrolyte.

to take steps

Despite the progress that has been made, there are still a few steps to go before commercialization can take place. This is where Hydro-Québec needs a helping hand. In addition, automotive giants such as Nissan are aiming to produce such batteries.

“It’s expensive and you need players who specialize in battery industrialization,” says a government source familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly. It’s not a financial process. The aim is to benefit the Quebec battery industry with the results of the research. »

This individual says that a “sell out” of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage’s operations is out of the question.

Hydro-Québec has already started partnering in the battery niche. For just over two years, Hydro-Québec’s Institute for Electrical Research (IREQ) has been working with Mercedes-Benz to develop next-generation lithium-ion batteries. It was not possible to know if the German giant could be the partner they were looking for.

more questions

The documents prepared by Société Générale do not address the level of investment required to commercialize the patents and the work of the Center of Excellence. It is reasonable to assume that the sums would be significant since we are talking about commercialization and industrialization, ie production on a larger scale.

A possible partnership could be that between Hydro-Québec and Dana in 2018. This year, the American automotive supplier became the majority shareholder of TM4, the Quebec subsidiary of the state-owned company specializing in electric motors, with the goal of accelerating its growth. The transaction allowed Hydro-Quebec to rake in $165 million.

In its call for expressions of interest, the state-owned company is working on three generations of solid-state batteries, driving the presentation of Société Générale. According to the document, marketing could begin as early as 2025.

Gregory Patience, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal, who specializes in the battery sector among other things, is hardly surprised by Hydro-Québec’s moves. After consulting the document prepared by Société Générale, the expert is not worried about the arrival of a possible foreign partner. In his opinion, this is not bad news for the future.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY POLYTECHNIQUE MONTREAL

Gregory Patience, Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal

“It’s a strategy,” Mr. Patience said during a phone interview. I would say that is desirable. Maybe it should have been done beforehand. You say [chez Hydro-Québec] have come up with something amazing, but maybe they don’t have the staff to make it happen. »

Quebec’s battery industry, a project on which the Legault government is heavily reliant, has been the focus of major announcements in recent months. The German chemical giant BASF, as well as the POSCO (South Korea) and General Motors (GM) joint venture, have chosen to settle in the Bécancour industrial park – Quebec’s preferred site for the development of this new ecosystem – to establish cathode materials there.

With the collaboration of Jean-Thomas Léveillé, The press

Hydro-Québec center of excellence for electrification and energy storage in transportation

  • A total of more than 120 employees, including about 40 researchers
  • Investments of over 400 million since 2006
  • Sixty Licenses Granted
  • Around 100 patent families
  • At least 250 scientific publications

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