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Quebec, the battery of North America

We have in Canada what the rest of the world will never have, that is, a certain accessibility to the Canadian Shield. It is this billion-year-old rock mass that provides Quebec with all the mineral deposits, among others, necessary to produce the batteries that various means of transportation need today.

The great challenge

The great challenge is to acquire the capability to produce in the future the cells for Lithium-Ion batteries and other solid state battery technologies. The cell is the battery‘s central element and is composed of lithium and especially graphite. At the moment, its production is mainly done in Asia which is an "ecological aberration economically interesting" for countries like Taiwan, China and South Korea. Indeed, almost 50% of the price of the batteries we buy in North America is linked to transport costs. As a positive effect of the pandemic, the increase in logistics costs encourages local production by bringing the various customers and suppliers in the value chain closer together.

Where the game gets interesting is that battery cell producing countries are looking to acquire our mining resources (lithium and graphite) to export them to Asia and re-export the final products to us. The ultimate in environmental ridicule! But they have no choice because their resources are not infinite!

It is important to know that to be profitable a battery cell production plant must have a huge production capacity and therefore requires investments in the order of 4 to 5 billion dollars, and of course customers able to buy the production.

Quebec government investment in this industry is inevitable, because in addition to positioning our province as a leader in the energy storage industry, it would provide the easiest way to sell electricity which is our main collective asset abroad. This operation would not only be beneficial in terms of greenhouse gas reduction objectives but would also provide Quebec with a collective wealth for generations to come.

Batteries and airplanes

Compared to cars, airplanes are subject to many more norms and regulations. This reality is accentuated with electric aviation mainly due to the possibility of fires that can be caused by the batteries. This normative and regulatory control is essential and easy to understand since in case of fire, it will be difficult to stop at the side of a road with an aircraft!

This legislative environment has had the effect of forcing the electric aircraft industry to think and design systems to contain a fire and the smoke in the battery cells airframe if there is a fire. The desired result is to contain any fire to the cell where it was initiated and keep it very localized, so as to minimize the risk to other parts of the aircraft and the flight.

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To get these results, the engineers had to get closer to the big airframe manufacturers in order to adapt and integrate the requirements of specific sensors to allow monitor in real time what happens in each cell and to keep digital records. You can imagine how difficult it was to get the world's battery cell producers to accept such conditions, as they already sell their entire production to meet the needs of the automotive industry. These conditions make it very difficult for eVTOL developers to source batteries for their future developments and production.

It will therefore be crucial to create a supply chain for the aerospace industry, with its specificities, as has been done by the world's largest car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Daimler or GM.

The circular economy

To be consistent in the era of sustainable development and the urgency of GHG reduction, it is crucial to consider battery recycling from the beginning of battery production. Once again, we find in Quebec, in Montreal to be more precise, companies that develop technologies to add value from waste related to energy storage.

For example, the Lithion claims to have the capability to recycle 90% of the materials contained in batteries. This means that 90% of the battery becomes raw material again, which is a real technological feat and a tremendous avenue for the future if we consider the substantial increase in the demand for batteries expected in the coming years.

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