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Rio Tinto invests in European EV battery producer InoBat Auto

InoBat is building Europe’s first battery cell R&D centre prototype cell-manufacturing capabilities by late 2021. (Image courtesy of InoBat.)

Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) announced Tuesday it is investing in European battery technology and manufacturing company InoBat Auto.

InoBat is leading the construction of a 290,000 square-foot, first-of-its-kind electric vehicle battery R&D center and pilot line in Slovakia, where it plans to integrate research and development activities together with battery cell-manufacturing capabilities.

The world’s second-largest miner is expanding its footprint in Europe — in July committing $2.4 billion to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia, one of the largest greenfield lithium projects in development. Rio said last month 60 Jadar mines wouldn’t fill the looming lithium gap.

The InoBat investment follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May, announcing the companies would work together to progress the establishment of a “cradle-to-cradle” electric vehicle battery value chain in Serbia.

Gigafactory build-out

InoBat is actively pursuing plans to build a number of gigafactories, including one in Serbia. The company specialises in the pioneering research, development, manufacture, and provision of premium innovative electric batteries custom-designed to meet the specific requirements of customers within the automotive, commercial vehicle, motorsport, and aerospace sectors.

”We are delighted to be able to deepen our partnership with InoBat through our investment and look forward to benefitting from a broader perspective of the battery materials sector, as well as insights into future battery chemistries and technologies,” Managing director of Rio Tinto’s battery materials business, Marnie Finlayson said in a media release.

“Our Jadar lithium project in Serbia is on the doorstep of the European electric vehicle market. Capable of producing enough lithium to make around one million electric vehicle batteries a year to the highest environmental standards,2 we believe Jadar will be a critical supplier of the European battery ecosystem and, through our investment in InoBat, we hope that we can assist in making some of those batteries locally.”

“Our mission has always been to provide solutions across the entire value chain – a cradle-to-cradle approach, which showcases the concept of the circular economy and will support Europe’s bid for technological independence,” said InoBat Auto CEO Marian Bocek.

“Side-by-side with Rio Tinto, we are looking forward to further developing our manufacturing capacities and working closely on the downstream development of a battery ecosystem with common decarbonisation efforts at its core.”