Northvolt Deploys Europe’s First Gigafactory Era Car Battery | Automobile industry


Electric cars have become widespread in Europe – they accounted for almost a fifth of all car purchases in the UK last month. However, one part was missing so far: European batteries.

This is about to change. On Tuesday evening, Northvolt, a startup, produced its first lithium-ion battery cell at a factory in northern Sweden. This is the first in a series of new factories that investors hope will allow Europe to carve out a significant share of the electric vehicle market – and weaken the stranglehold of Chinese, Japanese and Korean manufacturers. .

The Northvolt Ett site will be the first European-owned factory to produce on a so-called gigafactory scale. Gigafactories are generally considered to be those capable of producing enough batteries each year to provide approximately 15 gigawatt hours (GWh) of cumulative storage.

According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI), a battery data company, only two large battery factories are operational in Europe: a factory in Wrocław, Poland, run by Korean LG, and another owned by Korean Samsung near Budapest in Hungary.

Still, 25 gigafactories are expected on the continent by 2030, according to BMI, as the industry struggles to meet growing demand for electric cars. Nine of them are owned by Asian manufacturers, who control most of the global supply.

The UK is arguably further behind the rest of Europe, with plans for just two gigafactories. One will be a major expansion of a small battery factory in Sunderland by Chinese company Envision, while Glencore-backed startup Britishvolt is trying to secure funding for a local rival in nearby Blyth.

Local authorities in Coventry are trying to find a manufacturer for a third location at the local airport, but no one has come forward yet – a situation that has clouded the outlook for the UK auto sector as it struggles to replace the internal combustion in decline. engine industry.

Simon Moores, Managing Director of BMI, hailed Northvolt’s first cell as “Europe’s first gigafactory-era lithium-ion battery”.

Despite its start-up status, Northvolt has secured significant financial backing from Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, and investment bank Goldman Sachs. His $ 2.75 billion (£ 2.1 billion) round of funding in June valued him at $ 12 billion.

Northvolt hopes to quickly ramp up output at the Skellefteå plant in northern Sweden to produce 60 GWh per year, enough to supply batteries to a million electric cars. Commercial deliveries will begin in the new year.

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The startup is already claiming contracts worth $ 30 billion with major European companies such as automakers BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and Polestar, truck maker Scania and energy storage company Fluence. Automakers are belatedly ramping up production of electric vehicles to meet emission reduction targets as well as the challenge of their American rival, Tesla, which has built its own battery and car factory in Berlin.

Peter Carlsson, CEO and co-founder of Northvolt, said Tuesday that lithium-ion battery production was “a big step.”

“Of course, that first cell is just the start,” he said. “Over the next few years, we look forward to Northvolt Ett significantly increasing its generation capacity to enable the European transition to clean energy. “


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