BASF has broken ground for its new cathode active materials production plant in Schwarzheide, Germany.

The new plant is part of BASF's multi-step investment plan in the European battery materials market and will use precursors from the company's previously-announced plant in Harjavalta, Finland.

Construction started in August in Schwarzheide and the plant is scheduled for a 2022 start-up.

The new plant for cathode active materials will be equipped with process technology and enable the supply of around 400,000 full electric vehicles per year with BASF battery materials.

"We support our customers and want to capture the growth opportunity in the fast-growing electric mobility market with our investments in battery materials in Europe," said BASF chairman, Martin Brudermüller.

"Electromobility is one of the key solutions to unite the global desire for individual mobility and the need to significantly reduce local emissions. BASF is driving sustainable electromobility with battery materials and technology."

For his part, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier added: "BASF's groundbreaking ceremony today marks a further step in the right direction for Germany's industrial sector and the establishment of a European value chain for electric mobility. We aim to produce the world's best-quality and best-performing batteries in Germany and Europe.

"We are therefore backing the expansion of battery manufacturing which uses the latest and most environmentally friendly materials. Specifically, the Federal Government and the Land are providing approximately EUR175m (US$207m) towards BASF's project."

BASF says it is committed to provide a reliable and sustainable local supply of high-energy density cathode active materials to cell producers and automotive customers meeting their specific needs in Europe. 

"The new plant together with the precursor plant in Harjavalta will use efficient manufacturing processes, a high share of renewable energy, upstream integration into the key raw materials like cobalt and nickel and a short transportation route along the value chain," noted BASF Catalysts division president, Peter Schuhmacher.

"These measures will lead to a 30% lower CO2 footprint compared to the conventional industry standard. With efforts on recycling, we aim to 'close the loop,' while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total."

The investment in Schwarzheide reinforces BASF's support of the European Commission's agenda towards a European battery production value chain and is part of the 'Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), approved by the EC on 9 December, 2019, using European Union State aid rules.

The launch of battery materials from the Schwarzheide plant and research to develop next-generation battery materials and process development, including battery recycling, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy on the basis of a resolution of the German Bundestag and by the Ministry of Economics, Labour and Energy of the State of Brandenburg on the basis of a resolution of the Brandenburg State Parliament as part of the IPCEI for Batteries.