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International manufacturer, distributor and retailer of energy storage solutions, Metair, has announced a new programme for the production of lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries leveraging local raw materials and intellectual property. This programme will apply to the company’s operations in South Africa, Turkey and Romania and will involve partnerships with universities and industry agencies for production and certification.

Theo Loock Managing Director of Metair Investments LimitedIn South Africa, Metair will partner with the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC), located at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). This is the only pilot scale Li-ion battery cell assembly facility in Africa.

Metair’s agreement with UWC will see the company invest R3 million over three years. This will cover piloting the prototype lithium production project from January 2018, improving equipment and sponsoring one local post-doctoral fellow to be trained and work at Argonne National Laboratory in the USA. Production will focus on mining cap lamp cells, 12V lithium ion automotive batteries, and 48V lithium ion batteries for energy storage and solar panel recharge applications.

“Energy storage is a major focus area for many industries globally. South Africa was at the forefront of li-ion battery technology and we believe that this should remain the case as the global transition towards electric vehicles and renewable sources of energy drive the requirement for increasingly sophisticated energy storage solutions that rely on locally sourced raw materials and production facilities to reduce costs,” says Theo Loock, Metair’s Managing Director.

“The local partnerships, such as the one with UWC, will provide the platform to validate our local solutions on a regular basis and thereby stay at the forefront of technological advancements. This will support automobile OEM requirements as the production of electric vehicles accelerates. Metair will also continue to utilise internationally recognised li-ion chemistry solutions and apply specific design and controls for customers.”

Metair will work closely with UWC to deliver a locally validated li-ion solution for mining cap lamp applications using the most efficient chemistry mix based on widely available local minerals such as manganese to support local beneficiation. South Africa is home to over 80% of the world’s manganese, which is one of the main commodities required in the manufacturing of li-ion batteries together with elements such as iron, nickel and fluor.

“Our relationship will ensure that the testing and validation of the technology is undertaken according to strict academically driven standards, but also support local human capital development as more students become involved in this process alongside government and private companies looking to develop commercially viable local production of li-ion solutions,” Loock adds.

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