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EV battery makers rush into Europe following Tesla’s Giga Berlin project

Asia still dominates for EV battery production, with North America holding a solid second place. But Europe is on the rise, where EV sales are growing the fastest. That’s evident from a flurry of news about new and expanded battery plants from Audi, BASF, Tesla, Microvast, and Volvo.

The European Investment Bank this week announced a €480 million ($527 million) loan agreement with LG Chem’s Poland-based subsidiary. The loan will allow LG Chem to expand output at its Wrocław facility from 35GWh to 65GWh. There are reports that the plant in Poland remains in operation this week, despite the coronavirus.

Audi is reportedly planning an assembly plant for electric-car battery packs near its plant in Ingolstadt. The cells will also come from LG Chem. Audi uses cells from both LG Chem and Samsung SDI.

Earlier this month, Volvo formally inaugurated a brand-new EV battery assembly line at its Belgian manufacturing plant in Ghent. That’s where it will start building the XC40 Recharge, its first pure electric car, later this year.

Other examples:

  • China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology is investing in a 14-gigawatt-hour-a-year battery factory in Germany to supply EVs from BMW and Volkswagen.
  • Svolt Energy Technology, another Chinese firm, is planning a European base with 24 gigawatt-hours of production capacity a year by 2025.
  • Inzi Controls last year announced a $51.6 million lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Hungary.
  • Battery maker Northvolt declared it had completed a $1 billion equity capital raise to build a Giga factory in Sweden. BMW is an investor and VW is involved.

Meanwhile, Tesla finished clearing the forest for its Giga Berlin site late last month. Other battery makers, including Microvast and BASF, are following Tesla’s move to the region.

Microvast is a market leader in the design and manufacturing of ultra-fast charging and long-life batteries for electric buses.

Last month, chemicals giant BASF also picked a site in Brandenburg for its second European battery materials factory, part of a €400 million investment. The company produces cathode active materials in Asia, the US, and Europe. BASF believes that by 2025 it can help double the current energy density for EVs.

Brandenburg is attractive because there’s a lot of available land and the region near Berlin has a base of engineering expertise.

BASF also signed a letter of intent with Nornickel, a nickel refinery, to launch an electric-car battery recycling cluster in Harjavalta, Finland.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) expects European battery manufacturing capacity to top 198 gigawatt-hours a year by 2023. That would allow the continent to surpass the 130 gigawatt-hours a year of North American manufacturing capacity by 2023. It will be harder to overtake China, which is expected to hit 800 gigawatt-hours of annual manufacturing capacity by 2023. That will represent about two-thirds of global output.

Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage at BNEF, last year said:

Europe is moving away from being a laggard to committing serious amounts of capital and state support.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.