Automotive giant Stellantis has announced a major €50m equity investment in battery metals start-up Vulcan Energy Resources, while extending its existing lithium offtake agreement with the Australian start-up to 10 years in a move designed to bolster the firm’s electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing plans.
The equity investment from Stellantis – which was formed last year through a 50-50 merger between Fiat Chrysler and the French PSA Group – is geared towards expanding drilling at Vulcan’s planned production site in Germany, known as the Upper Rhine Valley Brine Field (URVBF) .
Vulcan is already producing geothermal energy from the site, with which it is planning to produce zero carbon lithium hydroxide without using fossil fuels as part of its Zero Carbon Lithium Project. The firm’s technique involves using renewable energy to separate lithium from geothermal brines.
“Making this highly strategic investment in a leading lithium company will help us create a resilient and sustainable value chain for our European electric vehicle battery production,” said Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares. “We continue our quest of forming strong relationships with partners who share our values as we collectively fight against global warming and provide clean, safe and affordable mobility to our customers.”
The equity investment and enhanced lithium offtake deal with Vulcan makes Stellantis one of the first European carmakers to make a major direct investment in the extraction of lithium and other key EV metals on the continent.
It is aimed at supporting Stellantis’ Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan, which includes goals to achieve 100 per cent battery electric vehicle sales in Europe, and a 50 per cent passenger car and light duty truck EV sales mix in the US, both by the end of the decade.
The Dutch carmaking giant – which owns brands such as Fiat, Chrysler, Vauxhall, Maserati, Dodge, and Citroën – also aims to become a net zero carbon business by 2038, with an interim 50 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030.
In total, the group plans to sell around five million battery EVs worldwide by 2030, and commercial deliveries of lithium from Vulcan are expected to begin by the mid-2020s, subject to regulatory approvals in Germany.
Vulcan’s managing director, Dr Francis Wedin, described the funding injection from Stellantis as “a strong statement by one of the world’s largest automakers regarding sustainable and strategic sourcing of battery materials”.
“We are fully aligned with Stellantis’ decarbonisation and electrification goals, which represent some of the most ambitious in the industry,” he said. “It is encouraging to see a leading automaker investing in local, low carbon lithium production for electric vehicles. As our largest offtaker, we are looking forward to deepening our relationship with Stellantis as a substantial shareholder in Vulcan and our Zero Carbon Lithium business.”