27-02-2020 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
European battery production has long lagged behind its competitor regions, namely Asia and the US. But efforts are now being made to catch up. The European Commission, which in 2017 launched the European Battery Alliance (EBA), sees battery production as “a strategic imperative for clean energy transition.” The EBA is tasked with guiding investments into battery manufacturing worth some 100 billion euros ($113 billion). The immediate objective is to create a competitive manufacturing value chain in Europe with sustainable battery cells at its core. This is seen as a prerequisite in order to prevent a technological dependence on its competitors and capitalise on the job, growth and investment potential of batteries.
However, Europe will need to move fast in order to keep up in the global race. According to some forecasts, Europe could capture a battery market of up to €250 billion a year from 2025 onwards. EU demand alone is expected to require at least 10 to 20 ‘giga-factories’ (large-scale battery cell production facilities). In a recent report, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said that it expects European nameplate lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity to top 198 gigawatt-hours a year by 2023, up from roughly 18 gigawatt-hours a year today. “This more than tenfold growth over the next few years should allow Europe to overtake North America, which is set to have around 130 gigawatt-hours a year of manufacturing capacity by 2023,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage at BNEF.
In February it was announced that the BMZ Group, the German based supplier of lithium-ion applications and VDE Renewables GmbH, have formed a strategic partnership to promote a European battery technology network platform. The aim is to promote and strengthen international exchange within the industry and will be showcased at this year’s Battery Experts Forum that is due to be held in Frankfurt in September.
Christian Adamczyk, press spokesman and marketing manager of the BMZ Group, said: “Battery technology is becoming increasingly relevant for more companies and industries, regardless of whether you are part of the supply chain or launch new products as an OEM. It is therefore essential to seek open exchange in the form of such an industry event. The high response to registrations for the exhibition and the numerous applications for lectures confirm our project. With the VDE and its large network, we can focus and convey the topic of renewable energies, electrification and battery-operated applications even more."
‘Battery 2030+’, a large scale EU initiative on future battery technologies to develop ultra-performing, safe and sustainable batteries, is to start research activities this year with support from the ‘Horizon 2020’ programme. The initiative will foster the development of a competitive battery industry in Europe by making breakthrough technologies available for future commercial applications. The proposed research priorities identified in Battery 2030’s 'Battery Manifesto' includes: accelerated discovery and design of battery materials and interfaces; smart sensing and self-healing functionalities; and manufacturability and recyclability. The next version of the roadmap will be presented this month.
‘SeNSE’, a European battery research project (part of the European Battery Alliance initiative) aimed at developing the next generation of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), was launched this month. The EU is funding ‘SeNSE’ with 10 million euros (£8.3m). Five research institutes and six industrial companies from seven European countries, including the Coventry University’s Centre for Advanced Low Carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS) and Swedish company Northvolt, will be working together on the project that is scheduled to end in 2024. Northvolt intends to set up two large-scale production facilities (gigafactories) for vehicle batteries in Europe in the next few years. The first plant will be built in Sweden and with a production capacity of 32 GWh per year it will be larger than the 30 GWh Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada.
The second will be built as a joint venture with Volkswagen in Salzgitter (Germany) and have an annual production of 16 GWh. The Sense research partners are conducting research on next-generation lithium-ion batteries – the so-called ‘Generation 3b’. A project source said, “In contrast to current traction batteries, this next generation will have higher energy density and improved cell chemistry and battery management system. Instead of pure graphite anodes, the aim is to use silicon-graphite composites. New sensors will also contribute to a longer service life and improve fast charging capability by supplying data from inside the battery cells to the battery management system.”
BNEF suggests that Europe’s battery manufacturing growth could be more reliable than North America’s because the latter is highly dependent on the fortunes of a single company, EV maker Tesla. But neither the US or Europe will come close to China’s battery manufacturing capacity. It is expected to boast around 800 gigawatt-hours of annual manufacturing capacity by 2023, or two-thirds of a global total of just over 1.2 terawatt-hours.