By Olivier Sorgho
(Reuters) - Belgian firm Umicore sees its newly inaugurated battery materials plant in Poland potentially powering 3 million electric vehicles (EVs) in the second half of the decade, it said on Wednesday.
The company said it saw potential to increase the plant's annual production capacity in gigawatt hours (GWh) to over 200 GWh in the second half of the decade, the equivalent of 3 million electric vehicles.
"The current energy crisis will be a facilitator of electrification," Chief Executive Officer Mathias Miedreich said during a press conference, adding that "customers' electric vehicles are selling like never before".
The plant, which Umicore is inaugurating in Nysa, Poland, but has been in production since July, has about 240 employees, with an expected rise to 400 by the end of next year, the company added.
Umicore is betting on supplying carmakers with battery materials to meet growing EV demand as the European Union pushes towards net-zero emissions. It has already signed EV deals with the likes of ACC and Volkswagen.
In June its shares fell sharply after it unveiled a 5-billion-euro ($4.95 billion) plan to ramp up investment in battery materials, as analysts raised concerns about potential higher debt and external funding required.
"Investor scepticism around the significant capex budgets seems overdone as most of the investments are quite modular," KBC Securities said in a note on Wednesday.
The new plant is powered by a nearby onshore wind farm, Umicore said.
($1 = 1.0094 euros)
(Reporting by Olivier Sorgho; Edited by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)