Batteries are hot property. The green transition relies on them: both for storing renewable energy and powering electric vehicles.
That’s got countries and continents vying to shore up their battery supply chains. At present, Europe’s pretty behind in that race. China currently has an annual battery production capacity of 465 GWh, 78% of the global total, with Europe and the US making up 18% together.
There are a whole host of companies working on scaling up manufacturing in Europe, given that the European Commission estimates that the EU will need 400 GWh of battery capacity by 2025.
There are venture capital-backed startups, like Northvolt, Verkor and Freyr, as well as established car companies, like Volkswagen and Nissan. Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata is reportedly looking to build a factory in the UK, and has asked the government for financial support to do so.
Europe does have a lot of battery expertise to fall back on though, thanks to battery producers like Saft, Varta and Leclanché.
Non-European companies are also working on projects across the continent, including Tesla, which is building a gigafactory in Berlin, and LG Chem, the Korean chemical company, which has a site in Poland. A gigafactory is a facility which produces batteries on a large scale.
The gigafactory posterchild: Northvolt
Northvolt, Europe’s best-funded gigafactory startup, has an active site in northern Sweden, which began shipments of batteries in May last year. The company has said it will ramp up capacity to 60 GWh.
Northvolt is also working on another factory, in Heide in Germany. It was expected to start production in 2025, but the company has said it may delay the project due to rising energy prices.
The company has also said that the US is an increasingly attractive place to build a gigafactory, and a place that might start to take precedence over Europe — thanks to the country’s gigantic $369bn climate tech bill and the subsidies it offers to battery makers.
European companies are behind 18 of the gigafactories being built across the continent.
There are also European companies building gigafactories outside of Europe. Norwegian company Morrow is working on a factory in India, in conjunction with US energy firm Midwest Energy.
Despite the European Commission’s projection that the EU can supply 90% of required capacity by 2025, several projects have reported hiccups this year.
Britishvolt, a company building what was set to be the UK’s largest gigafactory, fell into administration in January this year, after failing to secure a rescue deal to keep the company afloat. The company’s been taken over by Australia-based Recharge Industries, reviving hopes that the £3.8bn gigafactory project might still come to fruition.
It’s also been reported that a planned gigafactory run by Chinese company Farasis Energy and automotive group Daimler has been substantially delayed.
If the planned projects do make it to fruition, market data provider Benchmark Minerals is projecting that they’ll result in Europe having an annual capacity of 789 GWh by 2030.
This article was updated on March 10th 2023.