Automakers double battery production

Several automakers are planning giant electric vehicle (EV) battery factories as they expect sales to skyrocket as governments curb the sale of gasoline and diesel cars. Meanwhile, other companies are already considering how to recycle and reuse their batteries as their first life cycle comes to an end.

Northvolt has announced support from VW and Goldman Sachs to build a huge new battery factory in northern Germany to supply Europe with lithium-ion batteries. It hopes to produce its first batteries by 2025, with a goal of reaching 60 gigawatt hours per year, enough for one million electric vehicles. It would be the third of Northvolt’s gigafactories.

Northvolt points to the plant’s favorable location in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, as it can connect to the grid which has excess electricity produced from wind power. Northvolt CEO Peter Carlsson declared “How we produce a battery cell is important.” Additionally, “If you’re using coal in your production, you’re putting a fair amount of CO2 into your battery, but if we’re using clean energy, we can build a very durable product,” Carlsson said. “Our philosophy is that new energy-intensive industries, such as battery manufacturing, should be established in actual geographic proximity to where clean energy is produced.”

Tesla is also working on a gigafactory in Germany. Berlin-Brandenburg is Tesla’s first European factory, and it is a megaproject with the capacity to manufacture hundreds of thousands of Model Y vehicles and millions of battery cells. It should open later this year.

Other automakers are not far behind, as Mercedes announced a partnership with Japanese company Envision AESC, which will supply it with EV batteries from a US factory by around 2025. Mercedes hopes to be able to produce EVs at its assembly plant in Alabama. The automaker plans to invest more than $46 billion between 2022 and 2030 in the development of electric vehicles, eventually going all-electric.

The American giant Ford also has plans for a major electric vehicle battery factory, which will be located in Turkey. One of the world’s largest battery factories is expected to be completed by 2025. The joint venture includes Turkey’s largest conglomerate Koc Holding AS and South Korea’s SK Innovation Co. Ford previously announced ambitious plans to build 2 million electric vehicles by 2026. Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley declared that the project is “the first of a number of significant electrification and utility vehicle announcements we will be making this year.”

And while some companies are planning the next generation of EV batteries, others are looking to manage the first generation of “retired” batteries. California-based Redwood Materials said it has the “most comprehensive” electric vehicle battery recycling program in the state. With support from Ford and Volvo, Redwood will recycle lithium-ion (li-ion) and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries at the facility. It can process about 6 GWh of Li-ion batteries, or about 60,000 EV batteries, per year.

JB Straubel, CEO of Redwood, said “We have stepped up our processes in preparation for the first wave of these vehicles to be off our roads and we are ready to support the battery market by identifying and creating battery collection pathways.” Additionally, “California has always been a leader in the transition to electric transportation and as a result is the oldest and has one of the largest electric vehicle markets on Earth. When the first big wave of EVs start pulling off the roads, it will be in California,” he explains.

Meanwhile, automaker Jaguar Land Rover has plans for circular development with the idea of ​​giving batteries a second life. Jaguar is teaming up with energy company Pramac to develop a zero-emissions portable energy storage unit – an off-grid battery energy storage system (ESS) – with the idea of ​​using batteries from opportunity to feed it. Pramac will use li-ion cells from Jaguar I-PACE batteries to provide zero-emission energy to the grid when availability is limited.

In addition to developing new battery projects, Mercedes is committed to managing its waste to become a leader in net-zero automotive. It is currently building an electric vehicle battery recycling plant in Germany, which is expected to be operational by 2023. Mercedes plans to take lithium-ion batteries from Mercedes-Benz EQ hybrid and plug-in electric models to increase the recycling rate to more than 96%, as part of circular economy plans. The plant will produce zero carbon emissions and will recycle valuable raw materials, such as cobalt, nickel, lithium and graphite.

The new era of EV batteries is truly upon us. Auto giants and smaller automakers are looking to introduce electric vehicle models as restrictions are expected to be imposed on the sale of petrol and diesel cars over the next decade. Along with this change, several companies have big plans to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles, while others are moving forward with plans to recycle and reuse the latest generation batteries.

By Felicity Bradstock for

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