Exclusive-Soelect, Lotte Chemical aim to scale up U.S. output of battery components

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Lotte Chemical is seen at its building in Seoul

By Paul Lienert

(Reuters) – Battery startup Soelect and Korean supplier Lotte Chemical said on Tuesday they intend to invest more than $200 million in a joint venture to make advanced battery components for electric vehicles in the United States.

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding to scale up production of Soelect’s LiX lithium metal anodes for next-generation batteries with higher energy density and fast-charging capability.

The proposed venture aims to boost Soelect’s current pilot production to high volume by 2025.

EV batteries with lithium metal anodes have the potential to store more energy – thus providing longer vehicle range between charges – as well as the ability to charge much faster than vehicles equipped with current lithium-ion batteries that use graphite or silicon-rich anodes.

Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Soelect was founded in 2018 and has raised more than $13 million. Investors include General Motors Ventures, KTB Network and Lotte Ventures, a member of Korea’s Lotte Group and an affiliate of Lotte Chemical Corp.

Soelect’s founder and chief executive, Jin Cho, has said the company has more than 20 customers, mostly in the automotive industry.

Seoul-based Lotte Group is building its battery materials business, focused on such key components as electrode foils, separators and organic solvents for electrolytes.

General Motors Co, which is working with several battery startups, has said it is considering the use of lithium metal anodes for its next-generation Ultium battery cells.

The automaker has said the investment in Soelect “further expands our efforts to accelerate the advancement of battery chemistries” and that Soelect’s lithium metal technology “could serve as an enabler for both future lithium-metal and solid-state EV battery anode designs.”

Several other North American companies are working on lithium metal anodes, including Toronto-based Li-Metal Corp and SES, based in Woburn, Massachusetts.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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