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Ford, Rio Tinto sign MOU for battery and low-carbon materials supply to support net-zero future

Ford Motor Company and Rio Tinto have signed a non-binding global memorandum of understanding (MOU) jointly to develop more sustainable and secure supply chains for battery and low-carbon materials to be used in Ford vehicles.

The multi-materials partnership will support the transition toward a net-zero future by supplying Ford with materials including lithium, low-carbon aluminum and copper. It will allow Rio Tinto, a leading global mining and metals company, to progress its commitment to work with customers to decarbonize value chains.

Under the agreement, Ford will explore becoming the foundation customer for Rio Tinto’s Rincon lithium project in Argentina. Rio Tinto completed its acquisition of Rincon earlier this year. (Earlier post.) Rio Tinto is currently progressing detailed planning to bring Rincon into production and will work with Ford toward a significant lithium off-take agreement to support its production of electric vehicles.

The companies will work together to strengthen the supply of low-carbon aluminium for use in Ford vehicles, including metal produced using the zero-carbon ELYSIS smelting technology (earlier post) and from Rio Tinto’s hydro-powered operations in Canada, helping Ford meet its commitment to the First Mover’s Coalition.

Ford and Rio Tinto will also work to develop secure, domestic supply chains for Ford across other essential commodities for the energy transition from Rio Tinto’s operations in North America, including copper produced with a low-carbon footprint.

The MOU builds on Ford’s relationship with Rio Tinto as a primary aluminum raw material source for its iconic F-150, the world’s first all aluminum body pick-up truck. The high-strength aluminum alloys used in the Ford F-150 help improve performance and save weight, helping it to tow heavier loads, accelerate quicker and reduce stopping distances. Now, the companies will work together exploring what’s possible in the energy transition with models such as Ford’s next-generational full-size electric truck.

Rio Tinto’s Rincon is a large lithium brine project located in the heart of the lithium triangle in the Salta Province of Argentina. It has potential to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate with one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry. Rio Tinto is currently undertaking detailed planning including possible pathways for a smaller start-up to accelerate supply.

ELYSIS is a technology company created through a partnership between Rio Tinto and Alcoa, with support from Apple and the governments of Canada and Québec. ELYSIS technology enables the production of metal without direct carbon dioxide emissions during the aluminum smelting process, instead emitting pure oxygen. The technology uses inert anodes to replace the carbon anodes traditionally used during electrolysis, the process used to make primary aluminum.

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