Global automaker Ford has joined PT Vale Indonesia and China's Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt as a new partner in a US$4.5 billion nickel processing plant in Indonesia, reported Reuters.

The investment is Ford's first in the Southeast Asian country and underscores the growing demand for raw materials used in producing electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Reuters said the automaker hopes to cut costs and close the gap on EV market leader Tesla.

A F-150 Lightning being assembled at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich. Photo: Ford

“This framework gives Ford direct control to source the nickel we need – in one of the industry’s lowest-cost ways – and allows us to ensure the nickel is mined in line with our company’s sustainability targets, setting the right ESG standards as we scale,” said Lisa Drake, vice president for Ford Model e EV Industrialization. 

“Working this way puts Ford in a position to help make EVs more accessible for millions and to do it in a way that helps better protect people and the planet.”

The Pomalaa Block high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) project in Kolaka, Southwest Sulawesi, will process ore provided by Vale Indonesia from its nearby mine to produce mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) – a lower-cost nickel product used in EV batteries with nickel-rich cathodes. Construction of the plant began in November and commercial operation is expected to start in 2026.

Ford’s total investment into the plant was not disclosed.

Sources: Reuters and Ford