Firm investigating viability of Eastern Cape battery plant

5th May 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South African energy company Aqora is investigating the possibility of opening a vertically integrated gigafactory in the country, able to produce anodes, cathodes and lithium-ion batteries for the automotive industry, as well as batteries for stationary storage applications.

While Aqora may be relatively new, its founder, Deshan Naidoo,is well known in the automotive industry, where he has been a business leader and member of the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers leadership since 2017.

He began his career at a boutique investment firm and is also the founder of an investment holding company.

Naidoo says the envisaged multibillion-rand integrated battery project will leverage numerous international partnerships, and could potentially start production in 2026.

The current blueprint entails setting up the plant in the Eastern Cape, in a special economic zone (SEZ) close to a port and some of South Africa’s major vehicle producers.

The aim is also to transport battery minerals that can be found in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to a central hub for processing –with this hydrometallurgical hub also located in an SEZ – with downstream manufacturing then happening in South Africa.

“By co-locating processing facilities in the SADC, our aim is to greatly reduce Scope 3 carbon emissions when producing battery precursors and the complete battery packs,” says Naidoo.

Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by a company, but that the organisation indirectly affects in its value chain.

Minerals for the processing facility could, potentially, be procured from Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Naidoo says the South African automotive industry must turn to battery manufacturing to safeguard its automotive export market, amid the global shift to electric mobility.

He believes Africa has all the minerals and knowledge required to produce batteries.

“If we do not ensure beneficiation of our raw minerals, Africa will continue to be the scratch patch of the world.”