Northvolt celebrated the commissioning of its Northvolt Ett gigafactory on Tuesday with the assembly of its first European Li-ion battery cell.
“The cell is the first to be completely designed, developed and assembled in a massive factory by a local European battery company,” the company said in a press release issued today.
The automaker has already secured $ 30 billion in contracts from customers including BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volkswagen and Volvo Cars, and aims to begin commercial deliveries within the coming year.
The rise of a European gigafactory: a timeline
Keen to avoid the perceived mistakes of the solar cell and module industry, Europe has ambitious plans to establish a leading national presence in battery manufacturing.
Indeed, in 2018, the EU Battery Alliance, created a year earlier, called on the industry to take advantage of the expected € 250 billion battery market in 2025 by building between 10 and 20 gigabytes of European battery factories. .
According to Delta-EE in July, The European production capacity of Li-ion cells is expected to increase tenfold by 2025, with 25 giga-factories planned for this year, and five more already announced for 2030. This would translate into a total annual production capacity of approximately 591 GWh by 2025.
“We have identified six gigafactories currently operational in the EU, which equates to a total Li-ion cell production capacity of 62 GWh. By 2025, this is expected to increase to 25 plants and a production capacity of around 591 GWh, and reach 664 GWh by 2030, ”wrote Delta-EE analyst João Coelho in the July edition of pv magazine.
He added that Germany has both the highest number of gigafactory plants planned by 2030 (nine projects) and a planned capacity almost three times that of Hungary, the second largest. “Tesla, Northvolt and LG Chem are expected to hold 32% of the total share of European Li-ion cell capacity by 2030, with additional potential for Northvolt to participate in future Skoda projects.”
On the ground
Northvolt also appears to be a central part of battery manufacturing plans in Europe. The company, created in 2016 by Swedish entrepreneur Peter Carlsson, aims to secure 25% of the European battery market by 2030, with an estimated annual manufacturing capacity of 150 GWh.
In September 2017, he announced that Swiss company ABB had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to supply and support a new lithium-ion battery plant being built in Sweden by Northvolt. At that time, production was due to start in 2020.
The following year then saw a flurry of funding announcements by Northvolt. They started in January with the announcement that Scania, a truck maker owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, had pledged 10 million euros at the plant. In February, he then received around 15 million more from the Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten). In the same month, the company obtained approval for a European Investment Bank (EIB) loan of up to € 52.5 million to support the Northvolt pilot demonstration plant in Västerås. .
In October 2018, Northvolt then announced plans for a manufacturing plant in Gdansk, Poland. The company said it will have an initial capacity of 10,000 battery modules per year and start production in 2019.
A year later, in June 2019, she secured $ 1 billion in equity to build her Swedish company, bringing the total funding to € 3 billion. At that time, the Northvolt Ett plant, located in Skellefteå, Sweden, aimed to produce 40 GWh of batteries by 2020.
On the same day, he also announced the formation of a 50-50 joint venture with Volkswagen in Germany, named The Northvolt Zwei Factory, which would manufacture 20 GWh of batteries per year.
Not one to be left behind, in November 2019 Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company would build its fourth global gigafactory in Berlin Brandenburg, Germany. The factory was due to open in the summer of 2021; However, no news has been reported on the project since 2020, when Musk posted a render of the planned installation.
The news was quiet for a while, until July 2020, when Northvolt again attracted another impressive financial boost, this time from an assortment of public financial institutions, commercial banks and pension funds. who have allocated $ 1.6 billion in debt financing for its Swedish and German factory plans.
In the wake, in August 2020, the French start-up Verkor – with the help of the EU-funded sustainable energy research organization EIT InnoEnergy, the digital solutions company for energy and automation Schneider Electric and Paris engineer IDEC Group – announced plans to create a battery factory, production of which is expected to start in 2023 with an initial annual manufacturing capacity of 16 GWh which could reach 50 GWh, depending on demand .
The 200-hectare plant would initially cost 1.6 billion euros and create more than 2,000 jobs while supporting thousands more in its supply chain, according to Verkor.
Entering a new year, in February 2021, Verkor then announced that French industry consultant Capgemini had joined the manufacturing process improvement project and that the plant would be located in Rodez, about 150 km to the north. -est of Toulouse, in the Occitanie department of Aveyron.
Italian start-up Italvolt also announced in February its intention to build a € 4 billion electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Italy. The project site is being identified and the initial capacity of the plant is expected to reach 45 GWh. The first phase of the project is expected to be finalized by the end of 2024.
Not to be outdone, Northvolt stepped up its game even further, announcing the same month that it would invest an additional $ 200 million in its Polish production plant. The start of production is scheduled for 2022 with an initial production of 5 GWh and, at a later stage, the capacity could be increased to 12 GWh, he said at the time, adding that a new center of research and development would also be implemented jointly. with the extension plan.
The following month, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, announced that the government intended to create a public-private consortium led by carmaker SEAT-Volkswagen and the Spanish energy company. Iberdrola to set up the first electric vehicle battery factory in Spain. No timetable or specific investment figures for the project were provided, but the minister said it would be “the first battery factory in Spain” and located close to the SEAT factory in Martorell , near Barcelona, in the region of Catalonia.
Also in March, Volkswagen announced a strategic alliance with Iberdrola to expand electrification in Spain, in addition to partnerships with Italian utility Enel and British energy group BP in Europe, as well as with other partners such as Ionity and Aral. Besides the primary goal of providing renewable energy for the electric vehicle value chain, the companies said they aim to develop a network of public charging infrastructure and build up to six gigausines in Europe, with a total production capacity of 240 GWh. The first two factories are expected to operate in the Swedish town of Skellefteå and Salzgitter, Germany (namely the Northvolt factories).
In June 2021, Northvolt announced that it plans to raise $ 2.75 billion through a private placement to expand the capacity of its Swedish manufacturing site from 40 GWh to 60 GWh.
Finally, last month, the manufacturer announced that its recycling program, Revolt, had produced the first lithium-ion battery cell with a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode produced with metals recovered through the recycling of waste materials. waste batteries.
“The recycling process can recover up to 95% of a battery’s metals to a level of purity comparable to that of fresh virgin material. What we need now is to increase recycling capacities in anticipation of future battery volumes requiring recycling, ”said Emma Nehrenheim, environmental manager at Northvolt and head of Revolt at the time. .
Via Revolt Ett, Northvolt is also working on a gigantic recycling plant located next to the Northvolt Ett gigafactory.
“With construction starting in the first quarter of 2022 and operations in 2023, the recycling plant will receive incoming materials for recycling from two sources: end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles and production waste from Northvolt Ett,” said the Press release.
It indicates that the materials recovered from Revolt Ett will provide the neighboring plant with sufficient recycled metals for 30 GWh of battery production per year.
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