Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 18

18
* AUGUST 2023
Quenching Europe's
thirst for North
American-made
Stellantis vehicles
Canadian
ambition lays
the groundwork
for a network of
150 dealerships
By DOUG FIRBY
CALGARY CORRESPONDENT
A ST. CATHARINES, ONT.,
company has become a
Canadian success story as the
largest official importer of
Dodge, Ram and Jeep vehicles
in Europe.
John Muratori, COO of
Auto Export Corp. (AEC), is
based in Munich, Germany,
and oversees offices in Turin,
Italy, and Antwerp, Belgium.
The native of St.
Catharines is involved in
every aspect of importing,
preparing and selling
the North American-made
Stellantis auto brands in the
European Union's 31 member
countries as well as the UK.
AEC purchases
the vehicles from
Stellantis, imports
them, puts them
through homologation
- conversion
to meet local laws -
and then retails them
through 150 AECbranded
dealerships,
Muratori said.
All but one are
operated through
contractual partnerships,
similar to franchises. AEC
has 240 employees, including
15 in Munich at the only company-owned
store.
AEC was founded in 1996
by St. Catharines native
Andrew Pilsworth. The company's
big break came when
it helped unload inventory
when Chrysler entered bankruptcy
in 2008, Muratori said.
Muratori, 34, a business
graduate of McGill University
in Montreal and Harvard
University in Cambridge,
Mass., joined AEC in 2010
after a short career in investment
banking. A chance
meeting with Pilsworth
" changed the course of my
life, " Muratori said.
TOO BIG AN OPPORTUNITY?
Pilsworth and Muratori
pitched Chrysler on using
AEC as its European sales
arm.
" We knew it was a big
opportunity, " Muratori said.
" Almost too big for two guys
from St. Catharines. "
AEC does not disclose annual
sales figures, but Muratori
said the company has delivered
more than 100,000 vehicles
since it began operations
in Europe, and homologated
Homegrown Halifax tech will
feed a hungry battery industry
Novonix plans a North
American source for anode
material that's currently
coming from China. 'The
market needs these materials
yesterday,' company CEO said
By DAVID KENNEDY
T ORONTO BUREAU CHIEF
Muratori: Despite Auto
Export Corp.'s success in
Europe and his residence
in Munich, " home is still
Canada. " A positive image
of Canada in Europe
benefits the company.
SUPPLIED PHOTO
more than 80,000 vehicles.
The cost of converting a
North American Stellantis
vehicle ranges from 5,000 to
7,000 Euros ($7,300 to $10,200).
Ram pickups are usually converted
to run on liquefied
petroleum
gas at an additional
cost of about 2,500 to
3,000 Euros ($3,700 to
$4,400).
CANADIANS
ABROAD
Working in the
auto industry in
other countries
A typical top-of-theline
Ram TRX that
sells in Canada for
about $110,000 will
retail in Europe for
about 100,000 Euros
($146,000).
Buyers are attracted to
owning rare North American
vehicles.
" It's a point of pride for
many of them, " Muratori said.
Small-business owners, in particular,
" love those vehicles. "
Muratori, has an apartment
in Munich and travels
frequently to Antwerp and
Turin. Although he travels to
Canada about every six weeks,
the COVID-19 pandemic confined
him to Europe for several
years.
" Home is a funny concept
for me, " Muratori said. " Home
is still Canada. "
AEC benefits from the positive
image Canadians have in
Europe, he said. Buyers often
note Canada's military contributions
during the two world
wars as one of the reasons for
doing business with the company.
When
AEC developed its
corporate values in 2017,
employees identified " kindness "
as key.
" Kindness. That's what
it means to be Canadian, "
Muratori said. " It doesn't
mean to be nice. It means to be
respectful of others.
" It's not corporate mumbo-jumbo.
We live it every
day. " - ANC
A COMPANY SPUN OUT OF THE DALHOUSIE
University lab of lithium ion battery pioneer Jeff Dahn
a decade ago in Halifax is doubling down on its battery
materials business as many automakers and cell manufacturers
begin decoupling from China and putting
down supply chain roots in North America.
Novonix Ltd., founded in 2013 to test batteries,
announced on June 6 a joint development
agreement with battery-cell maker LG Energy
Solution (LGES). The deal focuses on developing
high-performance artificial graphite anodes
and is geared toward positioning Novonix as a
key supplier to LG Energy's growing roster of
battery plants in the United States and Canada.
It also gives LGES the option to buy up to 50,000
tonnes of anode material from Novonix over 10
years, following completion of the collaborative
development work.
Novonix is still scouting locations for the first of its
30,000-tonne-output plants, but it will be in the United
States, built with the assistance of a US $150 million
grant awarded to the company by the U.S. Department
of Energy last fall. The plant is scheduled to be online
in 2025.
Other plants will need to follow to meet fast-growing
anode demand from automakers and cell manufacturers.
Even with 40,000 tonnes of production capacity by
2025, Novonix estimates it will be capable of supplying
about eight per cent of North American anode material
demand.
Further expansion could eventually lead the company's
anode unit to Canada, Burns said, where access to
clean, cheap power is a major draw.
" The large amounts of support from the U.S. federal
government really are driving investment there, but
Canada has a huge opportunity to bring a lot of that
investment in the next wave, " he said.
It would be relatively familiar territory, as
the other half of Novonix's business is already
based in the Halifax area. The Canadian unit is
mainly concentrated on battery testing equipment,
the segment that gave the company its
start.
For now, Novonix employs about 200 people,
split more or less evenly between Canada and
the United States.
The agreement is the latest milestone in
Novonix's expansion into producing battery
materials and comes as North American
demand swells, said company CEO Chris Burns.
" The market needs these materials yesterday, "
he told Automotive News Canada.
Graphite - a highly conductive form of carbon
made up of neatly layered sheets of atoms -
is commonly used for the negative electrode, or
anode, in lithium ion batteries. It is naturally occurring,
so it can be mined. But higher-performance anodes use
artificial - or synthetic - graphite.
" Natural graphite starts as graphite, and you need
to purify it, " Burns said. " Synthetic graphite starts as
something else [such as petroleum coke], and you have
to heat it up to convert it. "
Novonix has been fine-tuning its artificial-graphite
anode process for five years and is scaling up output in
the United States to fill the void in local suppliers. As
with many other battery materials, the majority of the
graphite for electric vehicles comes from China.
At the company's first commercial production site in
Chattanooga, Tenn., Novonix plans to be producing at
least 10,000 tonnes of anode material per year by the end
of 2024. This will match the requirements of another of
its customers - Kore Power, a battery startup building
a cell plant in Arizona.
PLANS FOR MORE PLANTS
And as Novonix lines up other prospective buyers
in addition to LGES, it is working to build a series of
anode plants to add yearly capacity in roughly 30,000tonne
increments, Burns said.
" Our goal is to be generating hundreds of millions
of dollars in revenue on an annual basis from the
anode-materials side in the next two to three years, " he
said.
Burns:
Novonix
is working
to build
a series
of anode
plants to
add yearly
capacity
in roughly
30,000-tonne
increments.
FILE PHOTO
Despite the focus on North America, however,
Novonix is officially headquartered in
Australia. The faraway base of operations is a
holdover from the company's 2017 merger with
Brisbane-based miner Graphitecorp Ltd., a
transaction that Burns said was aimed at raising
the capital needed to push into the anode
business.
ACCURATELY PREDICTING BATTERY LIFE
Based off early research Burns conducted
alongside Dahn in the late 2000s, the company
uses a system known as ultra-high-precision
coulometry to test batteries, precisely predicting
how well they will hold up over hundreds or thousands
of cycles and when they will fail.
Particularly for EV batteries, which can last for 10
years or more, testing is vital, Burns said. Cell makers
need accurate, long-term performance data but can't
wait a decade for real-world results. Novonix's testing
equipment compresses the process to about a month.
As its testing business continues to grow, the company
is also funneling the profits back into R&D, leading
to a possible foothold in a different segment of the battery
materials business.
In November, Novonix opened a 35,000-square-foot
(3,400-square-metre) plant in Halifax devoted to piloting
a new type of cathode-material production process.
It uses a dry processing method, significantly cutting
down on waste. The site can produce 10 tonnes of cathode
material per year.
The new cathode production process is still short of
commercial-readiness but if proven at the pilot scale
will present another growth area for the business, similar
to the opportunity Novonix is exploiting on the
anode side, Burns said. - ANC
Novonix's first commercial production site in
Chattanooga, Tenn., is expected to produce at
least 10,000 tonnes of anode material a year by
the end of 2024, partially to meet the demands of
startup battery-cell manufacturer Kore Power in
Arizona. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Automotive News Canada - August 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - August 2023

Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 1
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 2
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 3
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 4
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 5
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 6
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 7
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 8
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 9
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 10
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 11
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 12
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 13
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 14
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 15
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 16
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 17
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 18
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 19
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 20
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 21
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 22
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 23
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 24
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 25
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 26
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 27
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 28
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 29
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 30
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 31
Automotive News Canada - August 2023 - 32
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