Mitra Chem takes aim at Chinese dominance of battery materials supply chain

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Mitra Future Technologies, also known as . also known as Mitra Chemo, has raised a $20 million Series A led by Social Capital Holdings of billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya. The startup aims to boost the North American battery supply chain industry currently dominated by China, by producing iron-based cathodes for non-Chinese applications.

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Taiwan billionaire Richard Tsai, Fontinalis Partners, Integrated Energy Materials and Earthshot Ventures also participated in the round. Palihapitiya and Will Drewry, who lead global supply management at Tesla and currently VP of supply chain at launch company Astra, also joined the startup’s board of directors.

Iron-based battery chemistries in particular predominate in China as a whole, while nickel-based batteries have been more popular in the West, due to a series of major patents that granted Chinese firms exclusive rights to manufacture iron batteries. But as those patents expire soon, iron-based batteries have become an increasingly popular option for automakers, including Tesla, which recently confirmed that cheaper battery chemistry is standard across all global Model 3 and Model Y models. Will come

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While automotive OEMs are adopting iron-based chemistry, China’s dominance remains a problem. “It’s a huge Achilles heel,” Vivas Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Mitra Chem, told Nerdshala in a recent interview.

To fill this gap in the supply chain, the company plans to manufacture iron-based cathodes for use in non-Chinese batteries. For Kumar, who previously worked on the battery supply chain team at Tesla, the decision to go with iron isn’t just a geopolitics issue; It is also a function of the growing market demand for EV batteries, especially as automakers release EVs in a range of models and meet a broad range of consumer needs.

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“If you look at the battery as the largest part of a vehicle’s bill of materials, and also the part of the electric vehicle that defines the performance of the entire vehicle, it was only a matter of time before the need to vary by application.” Thi will happen where one-size-fits-all cathode solutions that are used in the market today just won’t cut it,” he said.

He added that it also makes business sense to build a vertical supply chain center in the United States, especially as more North American OEMs — including General Motors and Ford — will have domestic battery cell factories in partnership with battery makers. announce.

Mitra Chem is currently in the process of building a laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., that will be capable of producing pre-pilot production capacity by the middle of 2022. The company says that it will employ the machine learning process pioneered by the co-founder. and Stanford University materials science professor Will Chueh, for moving the cathode from the lab to production-scale faster than its competitors.

According to industry intelligence firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, China is the largest player in the battery industry at all stages of the supply chain, from refining raw materials to manufacturing essential components to the production of the final lithium-ion battery cell.

China produces about 66% of the global production of components such as cathode and anode, which Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Called “the main building blocks of lithium-ion batteries”. Benchmark found that the country also leads in the number of large-scale planned battery factories, with 148 of the 200 facilities planned by 2030.

Kumar compared the current situation along the battery supply chain to the historical situation in the United States with respect to oil.

“We need to keep in mind that for 75 years, the United States was a net importer of oil, and that energy loss had massive implications for the American consumer and at times for our position against hostile nations,” They said. “We see the same thing happening right now. […] Not having some semblance of the supply chain in North America, being 100% exposed to outside parties – because North America has zero cathode potential today – would expose us to the same thing as we are exposed to energy. past tense.”

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