SK On to Work with US Graphite Processor to Develop Anode Materials

American graphite processor Urbix Inc. has entered into an agreement with leading electric vehicle lithium-ion battery developer and manufacturer SK On to jointly develop anode materials for current and next-generation batteries. Photo courtesy of Urbix.

In an emailed news release, Urbix Inc. (Urbix) (Mesa, Arizona, USA), the US-based environmentally responsible graphite processor, announced a joint development agreement with leading global electric vehicle (EV) battery developer and manufacturer SK On (SKO) (Commerce, Georgia, USA). The new strategic partnership will see the companies collaborate to develop industrialized anode materials that will be incorporated into SKO’s advanced lithium-ion batteries used in its US gigafactories. 

For Urbix, the agreement accelerates its plans to establish a commercial US anode production facility that will produce 28,500 tons (57 million pounds) of anode products per annum by 2025. This is enough to power 350,000 high-performance EVs produced in the US. 

For SKO, this agreement reinforces a local supply chain for battery anode materials in the US, helping customers take advantage of the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA intends to aid investment in US domestic energy production and manufacturing, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions by roughly 40% before 2030. 

Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, the SK Group is a global Tier-1 cell-maker with major battery plants operating and under construction across Asia, the US, and Europe. In the US, SKO has two battery manufacturing plants: one in Commerce and the other scheduled to be operational in 2023. 

The Urbix approach to graphite processing is quicker, more efficient, and far less carbon intensive than existing processes—it uses just 10% of the energy and 6% of the acid, in 7% of the time. Notably, it eliminates the use of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid and records yields of over 70%, more than twice that of the industry standard. This unique Urbix method is agnostic to raw graphite source, enabling a highly resilient EV anode supply chain. 

The agreement with SKO means that Urbix is now poised to play a crucial role in US-based battery manufacturing, aiding in the reduction of reliance on EV battery-grade graphite from China and adding diversity into the market. In addition, the partnership with Urbix allows SKO to help fulfil its commitment to best practice environmental social governance principles that are consistent with its Carbon Net Zero roadmap. 

“Working with such a renowned battery manufacturer means that we can accelerate our production efforts, and more efficiently address the supply of graphite,” says Nico Cuevas, CEO for Urbix. “By utilizing Urbix’s innovative technologies, we can shift more of the refinement and production of battery-grade graphite to the US, a mission we remain committed to.” 

“This agreement is meaningful in increasing the possibility of securing eco-friendly and high performance anode active materials for use in SK On’s US plants,” says Heeyoung Sun, SKO vice president in charge of advanced research. “SK On will continue to develop anode materials that can maximize battery performance.”