Metair launches programme to deliver locally produced lithium-ion storage solutions in SA, Turkey and Romania

Metair launches programme to deliver locally produced lithium-ion storage solutions in SA, Turkey and Romania
  • Programme aims to balance the use of locally available commodities with internationally recognised chemistry solutions
  • Partnership approach with academia and industry agencies on production and certification
  • R3 million UWC funding over three years to support prototype lithium-ion production and to train a local post-doctoral fellow at the Argonne National Laboratory in the USA
  • Aligned with Metair’s strategy to be a leading market player in energy solutions for the full mobility spectrum

Metair, a leading international manufacturer, distributor and retailer of energy storage solutions and automotive components, has launched a programme to produce lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries across its operations in South Africa, Turkey and Romania that leverage local raw materials use and intellectual property.

The programme will see Metair partner with universities and industry agencies for production and certification. This is an important move for Metair which historically used available li-ion solutions from upstream suppliers in order to deliver customer specific systems and solutions by adding its own system design and controls.

In South Africa, Metair will partner with the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC), located at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and which is the only pilot scale Li-ion battery cell assembly facility in Africa.

Metair’s agreement with UWC will see the company invest R3 million over three years to pilot the prototype lithium production project from January 2018, improve equipment and sponsor one local post- doctoral fellow to be trained and work at Argonne National Laboratory in the USA. Production will focus on Mining cap lamp cells, 12 volts lithium ion automotive batteries, 48V lithium ion battery for Energy Storage application and Solar panel recharge.

Theo Loock, Metair’s Managing Director, commented: “Energy storage is a major focus area for many industries globally. South Africa was at the forefront of li-ion battery technology and we believe that this should remain the case as the global transition towards electric vehicles and renewable sources of energy drive the requirement for increasingly sophisticated energy storage solutions that rely on locally sourced raw materials and production facilities to reduce costs.”

The local partnerships, such as the one with UWC, will provide the platform for Metair to validate its local solutions on a regular basis and thereby stay at the forefront of technological advancements which will support automobile OEM requirements as the production of electric vehicles accelerates. Metair will also continue to utilise internationally recognised li-ion chemistry solutions and apply specific design and controls for customers.

“In South Africa, we will invest and work closely with UWC to deliver a locally validated li-ion solution for mining cap lamp applications using the most efficient chemistry mix based on widely available local minerals such as manganese to support local beneficiation.

“Our relationship will ensure that the testing and validation of the technology is undertaken according to strict academically driven standards, but also support local human capital development as more students become involved in this process alongside government and private companies looking to develop commercially viable local production of li-ion solutions,” added Loock.

South Africa is home to over 80% of the world’s manganese which is one of the main commodities required in the manufacturing of li-ion batteries together with elements such as iron, nickel and fluor. Most electric vehicles today use li-ion battery packs, the same technology that powers laptops smartphones and tablets. Metair believes that sustained research and development initiatives to drive local production with locally available commodities will drive down costs.

“Metair continues to position itself to take advantage of changing technological trends, especially in our Energy Storage Vertical, where the market conditions and dynamics are subject to technology shifts which includes the mass introduction of electric vehicles. These changes have led to a refinement of the group strategy which is to produce 50 million batteries across five continents over five years,” concluded Loock.