Author: FutureCar Staff
GM unveiled its Ultium EV platform in March 2020. It serves as the basis for the automaker’s electric vehicles (Photo: Steve Fecht for General Motors)
US automaker General Motors announced it has signed a term sheet with Vale Canada Limited, a subsidiary of Brazilian mining company Vale SA, for the long-term supply of battery-grade nickel sulphate. The nickel will come from Vale’s proposed processing facility in the city of Bécancour, Quebec, Canada.
Vale is North America’s largest producer of finished nickel.
Nickel sulfate is used in the manufacture of positively charged active cathode materials for nickel-based lithium-ion batteries, which offer higher energy densities than traditional lithium-ion batteries to deliver longer ranges for electric vehicles.
GM committed to purchase 25,000 tons per year of battery-grade nickel sulfate from Vale Canada’s proposed plant west of Montreal. The amount of nickel is enough for GM to build about 350,000 electric vehicles annually, which would help the automaker meet its electric vehicle production goals as automakers transition to building all-electric passenger vehicles by 2035.
“GM’s dedicated cross-functional organization — including experts from global procurement and supply chain, corporate development, legal, finance and treasury — is strictly focused on building a safe, sustainable, scalable and cost-effective electric vehicle supply chain,” said Doug Parks, GM Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “Their work has already enabled GM to sign multiple binding agreements to secure battery raw material to support 1 million units of annual EV capacity in North America in 2025.
The nickel sulfate will be used in the cathodes of GM’s Ultium batteries that will power the automaker’s electric vehicles, including the new Chevrolet Silverado EV, Blazer EV and Equinox EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, GMC Sierra EV and GMC HUMMER EV.
Vale says it will begin deliveries to GM in the second half of 2026.
“This is a significant agreement for Vale Base Metals, bringing a key partner in GM to this first facility of its kind for Canada and North America,” said Vale Executive Vice President of Base Metals, Deshnee Naidoo. “The proposed nickel sulphate project would use high purity, low carbon nickel from our Canadian refineries and is a natural extension for the business as it provides diversified sales and a quick entry and anchor point into the North American electric vehicle market.”
In addition to the supply agreement, Vale and GM will also work together to recover recycled raw metals from used electric vehicle batteries to create a more sustainable supply chain.
“The signing of this agreement confirms that the biggest players in the industry want to invest here and enter our supply chain. We have the resources and know-how to make the world’s cleanest battery, and this news will certainly help make that happen,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec Minister for Economy, Innovation and Energy, Minister in Charge of Regional Economic Development and Minister in Charge of metropolitan area and region of Montréal.
Earlier this year, GM’s rival Tesla also signed a deal with Vale SA to supply nickel.
In February 2021, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted about the challenges in sourcing nickel for EV batteries, writing that it was the company’s “top concern as it scaled up lithium-ion cell production.”
In March 2021, GM announced plans to become a carbon neutral company by 2040. To meet that aggressive goal, the automaker plans to phase out internal combustion engine models, including light trucks and SUVs, by 2035 in what will be a historic move for the company, which has been building gas-powered vehicles since 1908.
These plans rely on a steady and reliable supply of raw materials to manufacture batteries for millions of electric vehicles. The supply agreement with Vale SA is another important step in GM’s journey to becoming an electric car maker.