Phostech’s current P2 LFP material produced via the wet process. Source: Phostech. Click to enlarge.

Süd-Chemie AG, a worldwide leading specialty chemical company based in Munich, Germany, is investing approximately €60 million (US$75 million) in the production of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) for use in batteries for electric vehicle drives and other applications. (Earlier post.)

On the new site of its wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary, Phostech Lithium Inc. in Candiac/Quebec (fully acquired in 2008), the German group is constructing an industrial production plant for LFP using a proprietary production process based on wet chemistry. By using this process, high grade LFP can be produced in both stable and consistent quality, the company says.

Phostech is currently working with three production processes: a solid state process for energy-grade material (Life Power P1), the wet process for power-grade material (Life Power P2), and a melt process that is currently at pilot scale. The wet process combines the Fe, Li and P sources for a complete reaction in liquid phase. Particle size, morphology and purity is controlled by precipitation.

At the 27th International Battery Seminar & Exhibit earlier this year in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl, Phostech said that it was developing improved power and energy grade materials.

Commercial production for series delivery will start in 2012 to reach a rate of 2,500 tons per year. Such volume, will allow the production of approximately 50,000 all-electric automobiles or, alternatively, up to 500,000 vehicles with hybrid drives per year.

As a result of the anticipated high demand, Süd-Chemie is considerably expanding its production capacity for LFP based on its new wet chemistry production process— a technology by which Süd-Chemie can already currently manufacture up to 300 tons of LFP per year at its site in Moosburg/Germany.

Compared with other cathode materials for lithium ion batteries, the LIFE Power-brand LFP manufactured by Süd-Chemie is characterized not only by high energy density but also by a superior safety of the material, particularly long service life, favorable manufacturing cost profile and excellent cycle stability, i.e. stable and reliable charge and discharge characteristics even in long-term use, according to the company. Saft is a Phostech customer.

This investment is of central strategic importance to Süd-Chemie. Our LFP will establish itself as a storage material for large high-performance batteries, thus enabling electromobility to achieve an overall breakthrough in the automotive industry. This is particularly due to the high performance as well as the superior safety and the long-life cycle as well as the stable charging characteristics facilitated by our LFP.

—Dr. Günter von Au, chairman of the Managing Board of Süd-Chemie AG