STUTTGART, Germany—German-Canadian start-up Rock Tech Lithium Inc. has begun construction of a new lithium processing plant in Guben, Germany. 

Rock Tech signed an agreement with Mercedes-Benz last year to supply the German automaker with enough high-grade lithium hydroxide to produce some150,000 fully electric vehicles. The agreement is part of a Mercedes initiative to make its EV supply chain more localized and more vertically integrated.

“For Mercedes-Benz, the shift towards electric mobility also means a change in our supply chains,” says Markus Schäfer, chief technology officer for development and procurement at Mercedes. “Three goals are central to us: sustainability, raw materials security and localization of procurement. [The Guben plant] is another milestone for Mercedes-Benz towards the sustainable production of state-of-the-art batteries. When it comes to our lithium supply here in Europe, Rock Tech will play a key role for Mercedes-Benz in the future.”

Under the supply agreement, the two companies will cooperate to create a roadmap for achieving net carbon-neutral production of lithium hydroxide by the end of 2030. Furthermore, lithium hydroxide supplied by Rock Tech must be sourced from mining sites audited by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.

The refining facility is the latest step in Mercedes localization efforts. Other recent steps include:

  • Battery cells will be supplied by the European factories of the Automotive Cells Co. (ACC). Mercedes-Benz has taken an equal stake in ACC along with Stellantis and Total Energies, with the goal of building a European battery champion with global ambitions. The battery cells will be manufactured at three locations in Europe: Douvrain, Belgium; Kaiserslautern, Germany; and Termoli, Italy.
  • Mercedes is building an R&D “center of competence” for EV batteries at its factory in Untertuerkheim, Germany.
  • Assembly plants in Untertuerkheim and Sebes, Romania, will produce electric drive units for new Mercedes models starting in 2024.
  • The Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Berlin will produce high-performance electric motors for the future AMG.EA platform beginning in the middle of this decade.
  • Mercedes has begun construction of its own battery recycling plant in Kuppenheim, Germany.
  • Mercedes-Benz is developing a high-power charging network in Europe. The first charging points operated by Mercedes in France and Germany will be connected before the end of this year.