Echion Technologies raises US$37M to manufacture XNO anode material

News Analysis




Echion Technologies raises US$37M to manufacture XNO anode material

The funding will bring Echion’s niobium-based XNO anode material to the market.

British niobium anode producer, Echion Technologies, completed its Series B funding, raising £29M (US$37M) in investment capital. The round was led by Volta Energy Technologies (Volta), with participation from existing investors CBMM, BGF, and Cambridge Enterprise Ventures.

The niobium market is currently undergoing a large shift in market dynamics. The metal is mainly used as a micro-alloy to increase steel’s strength and resistance and is often labelled as a ‘green metal’. Although steel will continue to represent the main end-use for niobium through ferroniobium (~90% in 2023), new opportunities are emerging, which could increase niobium’s use in energy transition-enabling technologies.

The most promising emerging application for niobium is in lithium-ion batteries. Niobium-based oxides have drawn increasing interest due to their high safety and fast energy storage kinetics. They could consume considerable quantities of niobium given that the niobium content of these anodes would be 60-90% Nb. Echion’s XNO product is joined by other formulations showing promise at the R&D stage including niobium titanium oxide (NTO), niobium tungsten oxide (NOW), and nanostructured niobium.

One of Echion’s partners, CBMM, the world’s largest niobium producer, is more specifically betting on batteries for future diversification, both anodes and cathodes, with expectations that the sectors will contribute to about 25% of its revenues by the end of the decade. Whilst revealing the news of its funding, Echion also confirmed that CBMM will open a 2ktpy battery-grade niobium oxide plant by the end of the year.

Project Blue’s base case sees niobium demand in batteries increasing, although not at the rate envisaged by CBMM. Under our base case, oxide applications for chemicals and batteries will account for roughly 15% of CBMM’s niobium production over the next decade.