EU bringing industry experts together to discuss EV battery production

04 October 2017

04 October 2017

The European Union is to host a number of automotive, engineering and chemical executives in the next week to discuss developing battery manufacturing on the continent in order to compete with Asian and US manufacturers.

The meeting, due to take place on 11 October, will see Volkswagen, Renault and Daimler joined by chemical group BASF and engineering and vehicle electronics supplier Siemens, together with Total and materials technology group Umicore gather to discuss the situation. The EU is keen to promote battery development as manufacturers increasingly turn to electric vehicles (EVs) to combat rising pollution levels and strict CO2 regulations.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said EU funding could support the creation of a consortium in the sector. ′Our ambition is to create real production in the EU; a full value chain, including recycling,” he said in an email to news agency Reuters. ′Supporting the rollout of batteries is simply an imperative if we are serious about the transition into e-mobility.’

Speaking to the Financial Times, Sefcovic added that it was vital ′not to have any ′Kodak moments’ in such an important industry,’ referring to how a company can fail to foresee huge changes in an industry. He continued: ′What we need is an Airbus for batteries. In the 1960s, we had a lot of smaller companies with cutting edge technologies but what they missed was the scale. We needed the Germans, the French and other Europeans to get together and to develop what today is a marvellous plane.’

The battery market is dominated by Japanese firms Panasonic and NEC, Korea’s LG and Samsung and China’s BYD and CATL, while Tesla’s gigafactory in the US is able to produce batteries in high volume for its own brand of vehicle. European car makers assemble battery packs for cars, however there is no significant player for cell production.

The meeting aims to promote cooperation in the sector, with up to €2.2bn of EU funding available to support the plan.

While there are plans to build factories in Europe for producing batteries, none of them will be operational in time for the expected boom in EV production. Swiss technology company ABB has joined forces with Northvolt to build Europe’s largest lithium ion battery factory in Sweden, although production won’t begin until 2020. Daimler is also developing a gigafactory to allow it to build on its own EV range.

Manufacturers are pushing forward with plans to release lots of different new models onto the market as well as adding electrification to their existing line up. EVs were a popular choice for announcements at the recent IAA motor show in Frankfurt, with a number of car makers revealing their plans.