Ford is partnering with PT Vale Indonesia and Huayou Cobalt to build a nickel processing operation in Indonesia, securing low-cost, sustainable battery materials, Kallanish reports.

The companies said in a joint statement on Thursday they will co-invest in a high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) facility in Kolaka, southwest Sulawesi. The Pomallaa Block HPAL project is intended to produce 120,000 tonnes/year of contained nickel in the form of mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) – a lower cost, nickel intermediary product used in cathode materials.

The estimated $4.5 billion project is expected to start commercial operations in 2026, with construction slated to begin this year. It will process nickel ore from Vale’s Pomalaa Block mine and rely on Huayou’s HPAL technology. The facility will be operated by PT Kolala Nickel Indonesia.

“This global cooperation is in line with Indonesia’s vision to build a domestic EV ecosystem,” comments PT Vale Indonesia ceo Febriany Eddy, adding it ensures optimal utilisation of Indonesia’s nickel resources

“The MHP produced will be further processed into nickel sulphate, cobalt sulphate lithium-ion battery materials, and ternary precursor cathode active materials (PCAM),” adds George Fang, vice-president of Huayou.

Ford, which is planning a production rate of 2 million EVs/year by the end of 2026, says the deal gives the company “direct control” to source the nickel it needs “in one of the industry’s lowest-cost ways.”

Lisa Drake, vice president for Ford Model e EV industrialisation adds that the cooperation allows it to ensure the nickel is mined in line with company’s sustainability targets, setting “the right ESG standards as we scale.” She believes the strategy will also help Ford to make EVs more affordable.