Home LATEST NEWS Batteries: Northvolt launches the first European “giga-factory” in Sweden

Batteries: Northvolt launches the first European “giga-factory” in Sweden

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Intended to compete with the American Tesla and Asian producers of lithium-ion batteries for the automotive industry, the plant located in Skellefteå in northern Sweden has assembled its first electric battery cell last night, Northvolt announced.

When it reaches full capacity, the site is expected to produce enough to power a million electric vehicles each year, with an annual production capacity of 60 gigawatt hours (GWh), according to the Swedish manufacturer.

Marking a new chapter in European industrial history, the cell is the first to be completely designed, developed and assembled by a battery company based in Europe, welcomed Northvolt.

After these first tests, commercial production should begin at the start of 2022Factory manager Fredrik Hedlund told AFP.

Northvolt plans to achieve production capacity at Skellefteå corresponding to the needs of 300,000 vehicles, or 16 GWh, over the next two years, he explained.

Tesla is due to launch its first plant in Europe shortly, and Asian groups have major sites in Poland and Hungary, but no European group has so far operated a significant plant like this.

The site, just 200 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, was chosen because of the large sources of renewable electricity available in northern Sweden, particularly hydroelectricity. The energy consumed by the plant is 100% renewable, according to Northvolt.

Making battery cells is a very energy intensive activity, Hedlund pointed out, and our goal is to have the greenest battery cell in the world.

kilowatt-hours of energy for its production, so where you place your factory is definitely the key factor for a green battery “,” text “:” Each kilowatt-hour of battery requires around 60 to 80kilowatt-hours of energy for its production, so where you place your plant is definitely the key factor for a green battery “}}”>Each kilowatt hour of battery requires 60 to 80 kilowatt hours of energy to produce it, so where you place your plant is definitely the key factor for a green battery.

When the plant is at full capacity, we will need several hundred megawatts continuously to be an efficient plant., he explained, in particular to feed the ovens producing the cells.

The battery of an electric vehicle.

The battery of an electric vehicle at a Volkswagen plant in Germany

Photo: Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Northvolt, one of the greatest European hopes in terms of batteries, has already won orders worth 30 billion dollars from European automotive giants such as the German BMW and Volkswagen or the Swedish Volvo, with whom he plans a second huge factory in Europe.

In a site complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the old start-up whipped to keep his promise to start the plant before the end of the year.

Baptized Northvolt Ett (Northvolt Un, in Swedish), the site already employs 500 people and should eventually accommodate 3,000 employees over a total area of ​​100 hectares.

In this highly competitive sector, one of Northvolt’s challenges is to convince high-level employees to settle on the borders of northern Sweden.

With its headquarters in Stockholm, the Swedish company, which has already raised several billion euros in funding, was founded in 2016 by the Swede Peter Carlsson and the Italian Paolo Cerruti, two former Tesla employees.

Among its shareholders are Volkswagen, Goldman Sachs, BMW, Nordic funds and since 2020 the founder of Spotify, the Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek.

In addition to this private financing, Northvolt has benefited from European loans, while the Old Continent is trying to catch up on its battery backlog at a time when manufacturers are turning en masse to electricity.

Faced with China, which dominates the market, Europe represented only 3% of world battery production in 2020, but it has the ambition to catch up and is targeting 25% of the market by the end of the decade, with several factory openings planned over the decade.

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