Photo courtesy of Ford

Ford Inks $4.5 Billion Battery Materials Deal, May Reprise The Capri Name For New EV

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Ford announced on March 30 that it has concluded an agreement with PT Vale Indonesia and China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt that creates a three party collaboration to advance more sustainable nickel production in Indonesia and help make electric vehicle batteries more affordable. All three companies are making equity investments in the Pomalaa Block High-Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL) Project through a definitive agreement celebrated today at a ceremony featuring Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

The Pomalaa Block HPAL Project will process ore provided by PT Vale Indonesia from its Pomalaa Block mine to produce mixed hydride precipitate, a chemical form of nickel and cobalt that is a precursor in EV battery production. Subject to regulatory approval, the project could produce up to 120 kilotons per year of nickel in the form of mixed hydroxide precipitate, a lower cost nickel product used in EV batteries with nickel-rich cathodes.

Construction of the new facility is expected to start this year, with commercial operations beginning in 2026. The collaboration will deliver materials essential for the auto industry’s shift to EVs, enhance Indonesia’s EV manufacturing industry, and support Ford’s plan to deliver a 2 million EV production run rate by the end of 2026.

The three-way nickel processing project will combine with Ford’s other nickel sourcing agreements and contribute significantly to its EV production targets by the end of 2026. There is also a separate supply agreement under development between Ford and Huayou for a precursor cathode active material critical to manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.

One question we don’t know the answer to is how this sourcing of nickel from Indonesia in collaboration with a Chinese company will affect the eligibility of Ford battery-electric cars for the US federal EV tax credit. We presume Ford thought of that before entering into this agreement.

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Ford Wants To Control Its Battery Supply Chain

“This framework gives Ford direct control to source the nickel we need — in one of the industry’s lowest-cost ways — and allows us to ensure the nickel is mined in line with our company’s sustainability targets, setting the right ESG standards as we scale,” said Lisa Drake, vice president for Ford Model e industrialization. “Working this way puts Ford in a position to help make EVs more accessible for millions and to do it in a way that helps better protect people and the planet.”

“This agreement shows it’s not just about what we mine — but how we do it,” added Febriany Eddy, CEO of PT Vale Indonesia. “We embed our environmental, social, and governance standards into everything we do, and the result is a unique collaboration with global automaker Ford and leading global mineral processor Huayou to jointly invest in this project. This global co-operation is in line with Indonesia’s vision to build a domestic EV ecosystem and makes PT Vale an important contributor toward addressing the world’s decarbonization challenge, with an investment that will generate local economic benefits and ensure the optimal utilization of Indonesia’s nickel resources.

Dr. George Fang, senior vice president of Huayou, said, “This strategic cooperation is one of the flagship projects under the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Maritime Fulcrum synergy. It also links Indonesia nickel and cobalt resources to EV makers via Huayou’s advanced capability and HPAL technology, is a great business model of EV value chain, and will make a splendid contribution to the EV industry ecology development of Indonesia. The MHP produced in this project will be processed further into nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate materials for lithium ion batteries. The joint efforts of the three parties aim to create a very positive influence on the economy and social development of Indonesia as well as the global EV industry and its supply chain.”

Indonesia is one of the primary sources of nickel in the world and has banned its export since 2020 as it tries to develop a domestic industry to process it. The country is courting both Tesla and BYD to assist in that process. Prime Minister Wodoko visited Elon Musk In Austin last year in an attempt to convince Tesla to build an automobile factory in Indonesia. So far, Tesla has resisted doing so but now Ford has stuck its nose under the tent, so to speak, Tesla may view things differently.

A Second MEB-Based Ford EV For Europe

Ford has been busy lately dusting off model names and repurposing them as part of its marketing campaign for electric cars. It offended many Mustang fans by naming its first EV the Mustang Mach-E. It has resurrected the Maverick name for a new pickup truck and will apply the Explorer name to a new electric SUV for Europe.

The EU Explorer is not the same as the SUV sold in the US. It is perhaps two-thirds the size — a slimmed down vehicle more in tune with the roads and traffic found on the Continent. It is the first of two models Ford says will be built on the MEB platform sourced from Volkswagen.

The second, sources tell autoevolution, will be a more coupe-like version of the European Explorer called Capri — a name that once graced a rather svelte sports coupe built in Germany that, when equipped with a pushrod V-6 and a 4-speed transmission, was popularly known at the “poor man’s XK-E.” There will be no connection mechanically between the old and the new Capri, but the name has some resonance among Ford aficionados.

The rumor is that the Capri and Explorer will be first cousins and share all the same technical specifications, which is no surprise given that they are built on the same platform. Expect one or two single motor versions and a top of the line dual motor option. Visually, the most significant difference is likely to be that the Capri has a more sloping roof line with less headroom for rear seat passengers and less cargo capacity in the rear. Perhaps the Capri will be to the Explorer what the ID.5 is to the ID.4.

Prices, specs, range, and performance parameters are all still in the future. Ford has made no official announcement about the Capri. All we have to go on is what some anonymous sources are whispering in the ear of the folks at autoevolution. But we know Ford is planning to offer two models in Europe based on the MEB platform, so the notion that one would be a crossover SUV while the other is a more coupe-like car is certainly plausible. Slapping the Capri badge on the coupe would be a good marketing move, just as Volkswagen is thinking of using the Golf brand to connect its upcoming ID.3 to a nameplate that has a long history with European customers.

Neither new car is destined to come to America, where any car less than 20 feet long and weighing under 4 tons is considered too small. But Ford is planning on selling electric cars in Europe. The Explorer and Capri may be just what the doctor ordered for Europeans who want to drive on electrons instead of molecules.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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