Gigafactories: Europe tools up a car battery force

 Gigafactories: Europe tools up a car battery force

Europe tools up against US and Asia a car battery force

Surrounded by a forest of tall green pine trees, 125 miles south of the Arctic circle, a giant electric battery factory is rapidly taking shape on a site as big as 71 football pitches in Europe.

The project will be a gigafactory, a term coined by Tesla founder Elon Musk to describe his first high-volume plant for producing lithium-ion electric battery cells, deep in the Nevada desert, reported by BBC.

Startup Northvolt, co-founded by two former Tesla executives, is in Skellefteå, a much chillier location, in northern Sweden.

But from here, as well as a base in Västerås just outside Stockholm, it is hoping to provide a quarter of Europe’s electric batteries, as demand for electric vehicles surges amidst the global race to cut carbon emissions.

By 2030, 40% of all new cars sold will be electric according to the latest forecast by the investment bank UBS, rising to almost 100% of the new car market by 2040.

“If you look at the agenda for all the automotive manufacturers to actually make those electric cars, the amount of cells that you’ll need to access, is going to be humongous,” says the plant’s manager Fredrik Hedlund.

Although many of the imposing grey buildings are yet to have much equipment installed, Mr Hedlund is confident everything will be in place in time for production to start by the end of 2021.

Northvolt aims to make enough batteries to power almost 300,000 electric vehicles a year. It’s already received a $14bn order from Volkswagen to produce its batteries for the next decade, and has plans for a long-term partnership with Swedish truck and bus maker Scania.

It recently announced that it had raised another $2.75bn (£1.94bn; €2.26bn) to fund its expansion.

“We are building a totally new industry that hasn’t really existed, especially in Europe, at this scale,” says Mr Hedlund, striding across the high-security site in a neon yellow jacket. “I think, not only myself but a lot of people, think that this is the coolest project in Europe right now.”

In northern Sweden at least, there hasn’t been a more-hyped project since miners literally struck gold 100 years ago. But for Northvolt, water is now the region’s most valuable asset as the manufacturer seeks to make “the world’s greenest battery”, by ensuring its production techniques are as climate-friendly as its product.

Renewable hydroelectric energy from the Skellefte river will fuel the battery-making process on the site, which includes using giant mixers to combine lithium, cobalt and other metals, and drying out active material in rows of industrial ovens, which have just been installed. Local access to raw materials and plans for an on-site battery recycling plant will also keep down the plant’s own carbon footprint.

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