Battery materials maker Novonix expects to double initial production in Chattanooga

StaffPhot o by Robin Rudd / In 2021, from left, Andrew Liveris, Novonix board member and chair of Lucid Motors; U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; and Chris Burns, Novonix CEO, count down to pull the switch that will change the Novonix sign to "Riverside Recharged" at the inauguration of the company's Chattanooga factory.

Battery materials maker Novonix said Friday that it has seen a breakthrough at its Chattanooga facility that will enable the plant to double the amount of product it initially plans to manufacture annually.

The company in a release cited its first-of-a-kind furnace technology to produce synthetic graphite for use in electric vehicle batteries, adding that it will allow Novonix to expand production capacity to 20,000 tons, double its initial target.

The results of the company's ongoing production efforts at its factory off Riverfront Parkway demonstrate its path to profitable production, Novonix Chief Executive Chris Burns said.

"Over several production campaigns, the furnaces delivered in-spec product at a mass scale, reaching our target design throughputs," Burns said in the statement. "The potential to expand the production output of Riverside to up to 20,000 tons per annum is an important opportunity for the company's near-term growth plans with significant demand and strong progress in customer development."

Australia-based Novonix operates the factory at The Bend development in a revamped former Alstom production plant. Novonix has said it plans to employ nearly 300 workers when the site is fully operational.

(READ MORE: The Bend is trying to woo headquarters-type jobs)

On Friday, Novonix also said that expected capital and operating costs for future facilities are projected to be lower than the company's initial estimates.

Company officials have said that they're looking to build a second synthetic graphite plant in a $1 billion project that would employ 1,000 workers.

A U.S. Department of Energy document that unveiled a $150 million federal award to Novonix for a new factory identifies Chattanooga as the future home for the proposed plant.

(READ MORE: Department of Energy document says Novonix eyes $1 billion Chattanooga plant)

"The project will build a new plant in Chattanooga to produce 30,000 metric tons per year of graphite targeted at the electric vehicle industry," the document said about the effort by Novonix's anode materials unit. "It will directly create 1,000 clean-energy, good-paying jobs while demonstrating the company's commitment to uplifting every corner of Chattanooga."

Novonix has declined to comment on the document.

The company said Friday that it's focused on the build-out of its Riverside facility to maximize output and economic return, and that it continues to work with the Energy Department on possible funding support for its current and future expansions through both grant and loan programs.

Novonix said it expects its achievements will lead to decreased capital costs for future facilities relative to the company's initial estimates. The timing of future site expansions, such as those proposed for North America and Saudi Arabia, is dependent on finalized Riverside engineering, expected in the first quarter of 2024, customer deals and the securing of capital, according to the company.

Should the company make the investment, a document shows the location for the proposed new U.S. factory is a 182-acre vacant tract at Enterprise South industrial park near Chattanooga's Volkswagen auto assembly plant.

About three months ago, Volkswagen Group of America agreed to give up an option on a 182-acre tract at Ferdinand Piech Way near Highway 58 at Enterprise South industrial park, and an official said then that plans were to market the land potentially to a company involved in the electric vehicle space.

"We're actively kind of marketing that," Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Charles Wood said in an interview at the time. "Ideally, it aligns with what VW is doing over time in the EV sector and that sort of thing."

The Volkswagen plant last year started production of a battery-powered SUV.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.