From pv journal 02/2020
Simply 20 folks labored for Northvolt two years in the past. It has now grown to about 500 workers members. Sara Hermansson, Northvolt’s technical recruiter, knowledgeable an viewers of this growth at occasion held in Berlin in October 2019, hosted by the EU-funded Innoenergy group. The largest impediment to Northvolt’s growth is discovering the proper folks and instructing them find out how to make batteries, stated Hermansson – who appeared optimistic that every one different facets of the corporate’s enterprise (e.g., the provision chain) are already being handled efficiently.
Hermansson’s criterion when choosing new workers, she defined should not scientists who intention to develop new battery chemistries, however engineers who’re prepared to work on present science to fabricate batteries which are cheaper and extra sustainable.
Marcus Ulmefors, an information scientist and battery modeler for Northvolt since April 2019, agrees. Talking in December at Imperial Faculty London, he advised an viewers of teachers and know-how fans that the corporate doesn’t design totally new merchandise. “We reasonably strive confirmed applied sciences and intention to enhance them, however the important thing intention is to attain environment friendly manufacturing at scale and with good high quality,” he stated.
Each Hermansson and Ulmefors stress that Northvolt goals to fabricate batteries utilizing electrical energy from renewable vitality sources. This provides to the corporate’s sustainability targets, but in addition helps it to fabricate cheaper batteries.
The corporate at present operates an R&D laboratory and an illustration line in Västerås, close to the Swedish capital Stockholm. Its important manufacturing web site for battery cells is in Skellefteå, northern Sweden. The Northvolt Ett manufacturing unit in Skellefteå began building in October 2019, instantly after it was granted all of the required environmental approvals, and is predicted to supply its first batteries in 2021. Till then, Northvolt can depend on the Västerås facility, which commenced business manufacturing in December.
In the meantime, Northvolt and Germany’s Volkswagen Group introduced a three way partnership in September to ascertain the Northvolt Zwei 16 GWh manufacturing unit in Salzgitter, in Decrease Saxony, Germany. The Zwei 16 GWh manufacturing unit is predicted to start out building subsequent 12 months. And an additional Northvolt meeting unit in Gdansk, Poland, is already below growth.
“In Sweden, we use low cost hydropower, so our batteries may even get cheaper,” stated Hermansson. In Germany particularly, added Ulmefors – on condition that the nation has a unique vitality combine – Northvolt plans to search out renewable vitality options to energy the energy-intensive processes of the Zwei manufacturing unit.
An organization spokesperson defined that Sweden’s Gigafactory, the Northvolt Ett, will boast an preliminary capability of 32 GWh per 12 months, expandable to 40 GWh per 12 months. Due to this fact “in Sweden, the place we do each upstream and downstream processes – which means uncooked materials enter and completed battery cell output – we would require greater than 2 TWh per 12 months if we construct 40 GWh of battery capability,” the spokesperson stated.
Electrical energy necessities for the German gigafactory Northvolt Zwei have but to be printed, however a Northvolt spokesperson stated it “might be a lot decrease for the reason that most vitality intensive half (upstream) might be executed in Sweden. The energetic materials might be shipped to Germany for ultimate processing into completed cells.”
Lastly, Northvolt experiences that its Polish manufacturing unit “has comparatively very low electrical energy necessities, as a result of it’s an meeting plant for battery packs, it’s not a manufacturing unit for battery cells. No official numbers are launched for this plant, however they are going to be a small fraction compared.”
pv journal has additionally realized that Northvolt plans to switch the generated warmth from certainly one of its factories to a neighboring metropolis, in order that a number of the firm’s manufacturing processes are zero carbon. The corporate confirmed that this can be a working plan, nonetheless its spokesperson added that “it’s a little bit too quickly” to speak particular particulars at current.
Information and management
“Battery-making was an business within the earlier many years, however now it’s a enterprise,” Hermansson stated on the occasion in Berlin. Aside from utilizing low cost renewable energies (predominantly hydro energy, and to a lesser extent wind vitality) to decrease manufacturing prices, Northvolt claims that on the core of its enterprise mannequin lies the information and management of all components of the provision chain.
The availability chain for batteries is lengthy, and infrequently Northvolt’s rivals have no idea the place they purchase their uncooked supplies from, argued Hermansson. That is undoubtedly not the case with Northvolt, claimed Ulmefors, which buys uncooked supplies (nickel, cobalt and lithium) straight from the mines that it additionally visits, in order that the corporate has a transparent thought what it buys and from the place. “In the long run, we’re comfy how issues are sourced, how they’re produced and what goes into the batteries we make,” stated Ulmefors. Northvolt’s actual mine places and suppliers stay an organization secret.
Apart from uncooked supplies and mining, the corporate controls all different components of the provision chain in home, stated Ulmefors. On this entrance, Northvolt advantages from its vertically built-in construction and logistics on the European continent. “We imagine that being a home-grown European actor we will know our clients, now we have logistics inside Europe,” Ulmefors stated. And whereas “usually provide chains can span internationally and throughout continents, we wish to deliver that nearer. We now have a really bold plan for knowledge assortment, modeling, traceability, join every thing within the manufacturing unit … we wish to go all the best way from the uncooked supplies to cells, to packs and ultimately recycling, gathering knowledge alongside the best way to create one of the best fashions out there.”
One other important attribute of Northvolt’s enterprise mannequin is that the corporate fosters shut cooperation with key purchasers and different stakeholders. The corporate doesn’t intend to stay inside the boundaries of the automotive business. It additionally goals at grid, industrial, and transportable battery functions. Generally, Ulmefors famous, there are battery enterprise circumstances that aren’t instantly apparent, and because of this the corporate develops partnerships with key actors from all sectors, in order that collectively “we allow the way forward for vitality” and electrify all sectors – not simply the automotive business. Northvolt’s companions embody Siemens, the BMW Group, Vattenfall, Vestas, ABB, and different main European corporations.
Ulmefors’ presentation paid specific consideration to battery recycling, for each environmental and financial causes. Battery recycling can improve the competitiveness of the corporate as a result of it reduces dangers. For instance, when materials costs improve, the tip product of the recycling can present extra earnings for the corporate. However the problem, in accordance with Ulmefors, is that dismantling the batteries is a troublesome course of (see pp. 60-63), as a result of they include so many various components and supplies.
Lastly, with regard to Northvolt’s sensible gross sales methodology for the instant and long-term future, Ulmefors defined that the corporate can already begin promoting batteries manufactured within the small Västerås facility, though in two years’ time, gross sales will come from the Ett gigafactory in northern Sweden. After the Ett plant turns into operational, the Västerås manufacturing unit will rework into an schooling and coaching heart. That may enable the corporate to strive completely different tools and manufacturing strategies with out having to intervene with the mass manufacturing line in Ett, he stated.
The Polish meeting unit will obtain cells and make modules and packs for supply to clients. The Zwei gigafactory in Germany goes to materialize after that, and can intention to turn out to be “the primary customer-dedicated Gigafactory”. Will probably be an train in what the corporate is making an attempt to attain, which isn’t solely constructing processes for top of the range cells and batteries, but in addition constructing a number of high-quality factories, Ulmefors stated. “In different phrases,” he concluded, “we intention to arrange a blueprint and repeatedly construct factories at excessive tempo and prime quality.”
Nonetheless, Northvolt clients is not going to have to attend till the total plan unfolds. The corporate advised pv journal that “Li-ion cells produced in Västerås might be appropriate for all functions and segments which are addressed by Northvolt, together with however not restricted to electrical automobiles, grid functions, and industrial functions.” The preliminary manufacturing capability of the Polish plant in Poland can be 10,000 modules per 12 months, or roughly 100 MWh of battery packs.
Many market analysts have claimed that Northvolt is Europe’s reply to Asia’s dominance in battery manufacturing. However Matthias Machnig, a German politician chargeable for Innoenergy’s industrial technique, stated on the occasion in Berlin that Europe nonetheless lags behind. Northvolt’s 32 GWh and 16 GWh capacities within the Ett and Zwei gigafactories, in Sweden and Germany, respectively, will present solely 12% of the estimated 400 GWh of cells required by Europe’s automotive business when it’s up and operating by 2025, Machnig stated. And that leaves him questioning what is going to occur to the 88% shortfall.
From 70 GWh of annual world lithium ion battery demand in 2016, Northvolt predicts that annual demand in 2020 will attain about 200 GWh, and can develop to round 1000 GWh by 2025, Ulmefors stated. Of this demand, its gigafactories will solely provide 48 GWh by 2024. The corporate estimates that Europe will want roughly about 20% of the worldwide market and the reason being that 20% of the electrical automobiles – 20 million out of 100 million automobiles – are manufactured in Europe. Assuming a 64 kWh EV battery measurement and Northvolt Ett’s 32 GWh of annual output – expandable to 40 GWh per 12 months – Northvolt can present about 500,000 to 600,000 EVs per 12 months. China, South Korea, and Japan’s dominance within the battery manufacturing will hardly be challenged.
However Ulmefors stays upbeat. The explanation, he argued, is that by doing one thing new in Europe, Northvolt can develop new processes with out considering legacy techniques and manufacturing traditions. As an alternative, it could possibly allow new concepts and undertake new approaches that may enable it to be aggressive. An instance of that is siting the Swedish factories the place vitality is plentiful and low cost, providing it a aggressive benefit. All battery producers are racing to attain their targets and meet demand. The purpose is to scale and meet demand, whereas not chopping corners on high quality. Each firm that reaches its high quality targets will be capable of promote, stated Ulmefors.