Belmont, NC-based Piedmont Lithium, Inc. is expanding west into the Volunteer State, building a new processing plant in Etowah, TN. The new facility will work with the company’s North Carolina plant, bringing its total U.S.-based production capacity to 60,000 tons by 2026. The new Tennessee facility, opening in 2025, will be the largest lithium hydroxide processing site in America, with an eventual production target of 30,000 metric tons annually.
“The U.S. government is putting investment dollars behind its policies to support energy independence and national security, and we are grateful … to help spur critical, domestic development of the electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chain,” said Keith Phillips, CEO of Piedmont Lithium.
“Over 80% of lithium hydroxide production today occurs in China,” Phillips said. “This grant will accelerate the development of the … project as a world-class lithium hydroxide operation, which is expected to more than double the domestic production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide in the United States.”
The Tennessee plant comes as the U.S. demand for EV batteries grows. Lithium is a critical metal for the batteries’ creation; much of it is currently imported. The federal government is pushing for domestic production, with the current production of lithium oxide under 15,000 tons a year.
Though the company will source the needed metal concentrate from international project investments, bringing the processing to the U.S. will bring more than 100 new jobs to the small town of Etowah and an investment of more than $600 million into the state.
The new plant will be built to operate with a smaller carbon footprint than its predecessors and designed to improve capital and lower general operating costs. Part of its construction is funded by a $141 million federal grant from the Department of Energy (DOE).
“We are pleased that the DOE has chosen to support our Tennessee project, and we are committed to being responsible stewards of these grant funds,” said Patrick Brindle, COO of Piedmont Lithium. “This funding will enable us to accelerate detailed engineering and place orders for long-lead items.”
The drive toward EVs, powered by lithium batteries, is supported by new federal laws such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a $7,500 tax credit for an electric car that contains elements either mined or processed domestically. Piedmont Lithium is a critical supplier of the metal for EVs and other batteries to the American supply chains to support creating a much-needed clean energy economy in the U.S.