GM makes another move to solidify EV supplies

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

In another move to make sure it has what it needs to electrify its lineup, General Motors Co. said Thursday it entered into a supply agreement with MP Materials Corp. for the alloy and magnets needed for EV programs.

The agreement solidifies terms of a binding agreement announced by the companies in December. MP Materials will supply U.S.-sourced and manufactured rare earth materials — alloy and finished magnets — for electric motors in more than a dozen models using GM’s new Ultium EV platform. MP is planning a gradual production ramp-up starting in late 2023 with alloy.

The supply agreement is one of several GM has made in the last year to shore up the materials it will need to build 1 million electric vehicles in North America by 2025.

Most recently, GM entered into a multi-year sourcing agreement with Switzerland-based natural resource company, Glencore, to secure cobalt supply for electric vehicles. In March, GM and POSCO Chemical said they're planning to build a facility in Quebec to produce cathode active material, or CAM, for the batteries used with GM's Ultium EV platform, including those on the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq.

Last year, GM and GE Renewable Energy signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding "to evaluate opportunities to improve supplies of heavy and light rare earth materials and magnets, copper and electrical steel used for manufacturing of electric vehicles," the companies said in a press release.

Also in 2021, GM formed a partnership with Controlled Thermal Resources Limited to source lithium from southern California's Salton Sea. Lithium is a crucial mineral needed to build electric vehicle batteries.

Additionally, the Detroit automaker and Vacuumschmelze or VAC, a global producer of advanced magnetic materials, are finalizing the details of a deal for VAC to build a U.S. facility that will manufacture permanent magnets for electric motors in GM's EVs built on the automaker's new Ultium electric platform. 

GM is attendance today at a groundbreaking event for a MP facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which will be its first rare earth metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility. The facility will have the capacity to produce about 1,000 tons of neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets per year to support the production of about 500,000 EV traction motors, the company says. In addition to EVs, these magnets can be used in robots, wind turbines, drones and defense systems.

"The new MP Materials magnetics facility in Fort Worth, Texas, will play a key role in GM’s journey to build a secure, scalable and sustainable EV supply chain," said Anirvan Coomer, GM's executive director of global purchasing and supply chain.

Coomer added that GM will also look to collaborate" with MP Materials from a public policy perspective to seek policies that are supportive of the establishment of an efficient U.S.-based rare earth and magnet supply chain."