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Startup Offers EV Firms Greener Graphite in Alternative to China

Photo Courtesy Graphjet Technology

(Bloomberg) —

An alternative energy startup in Malaysia is ready to help electric-vehicle makers source a key ingredient outside of China — using agriculture waste to create graphite. 

Graphjet Technology said it can turn palm kernels into graphite — an essential component in EV battery anodes — from its facility in Malaysia, one of the world’s top producers of palm oil. The company, which started trading on Nasdaq Friday, expects to begin producing the ingredient in the second quarter, targeting an annual capacity of 3,000 tons, according to Chief Executive Officer Aiden Lee

Synthetic graphite, which accounts for most of global production, is typically made from petroleum coke, in an expensive and carbon-intensive process. Graphjet says its process cuts the carbon footprint by 83% while reducing costs by 80%.

The company’s projected output is small in comparison to the huge global demand for the critical mineral, which BloombergNEF estimates may almost triple to 2.4 million metric tons by 2030. However, Graphjet’s production offers EV makers an alternative source to China, which accounts for 90% of the synthetic variety. 

The US has stepped up efforts to decouple from China’s dominance in the EV battery supply chain, especially after the Asian nation moved to impose export controls on its graphite products. BNEF estimated at least 156,000 metric tons of annual battery-related graphite demand could need to find a new supplier when the rules came into effect Dec. 1.

“The battery market in the US is in need of a more reliable ex-China supplier of graphite,” Lee said in an interview. “We can help fill a critical gap.”

Graphjet plans to build a facility in Nevada and is talking to the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense. It also expects to set up facilities in Korea, Japan and Europe. 

Graphjet went public after closing its deal to merge with special-purpose acquisition company Energem Corp. this month. It has a $30 million offtake agreement with Toyoda Trike Inc., supplying raw material for the Japanese company’s electric bicycles.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.


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