Québec’s EV battery plant hits a speed bump

Here’s a brain teaser for you: Why are environmental and Indigenous groups rallying against a project that aims to be a key part of Canada’s net-zero transition? 

What happened: A Québec court is ruling on whether or not to stop the construction of Northvolt’s $7 billion EV battery plant outside of Montréal. The legal hurdle comes from an environmentalist group claiming the plant will harm important wetlands. 

  • The group argues that the town that will house the plant didn’t have the authority to okay the deforestation of wetland trees, which they say will destroy biodiversity.

Zoom out: That’s not the only problem the plant faces. The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke is suing both the federal and provincial governments to block progress on building the plant on the grounds that the governments did not complete a proper consultation with Indigenous groups. 

  • As well, an anarchist group claimed responsibility for trying to “sabotage” the equipment of the plant’s builders by inserting nails and metal bars into the trees set to be logged. 

Why it matters: These legal filings, alongside other concerns associated with EV batteries — like damage from critical minerals mining and carbon emissions from plants — could trip up investments the government believes are vital for the green transition and economic growth.  

Bottom line: Ontario plants are well underway, but Northvolt’s factory is a key investment for Canada with its aims to produce batteries for 500,000 EVs annually and eventually double production, which would make it one of the few non-Asian plants with that capacity.—QH