With the European industry divided over setting up battery cell production on the continent, rivals from Asia are keen to make a move. Now BYD joins the growing circle of established cell makers who consider taking their share of the future.
Whilst Brussels’ call for a homegrown battery industry has been futile so far, Asian manufacturers are quick to expand production to where the market is.
China’s BYD now told Reuters they were “considering cell production outside of China and that includes Europe,” but without providing any more detail. Julia Chen, Global Sales Director at BYD Batteries, only added that a battery factory “would be possible wherever there’s a market.”
According to estimates of the European Commission there clearly is a market and one that could soon be worth 220 GWh of batteries or 250 billion euros, according to EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič. He wants to see a “Battery Airbus” and expects that more than ten Gigafactories à la Tesla would be needed by 2025 to fulfil demand for batteries in the EU (we reported).
Whilst the response from the industry has been cautious if not dismissive, the EU went ahead with a draft for a Europan Battery Alliance (EBA) that wants to carve out a unique selling point in making certified green batteries. Šefčovič estimates this “would need around 20 billion euros investment,” and stressed that “the Alliance, needs to be driven by the Industry. We, the Commission, are here as system integrator or facilitator.”
Yet, only PSA has voiced their support to date with CEO Carlos Tavares telling MPs in France that he’d “enthusiastically supports the creation of a European champion in battery development and manufacturing.”
In Germany though, Bosch has backed off from any cell making in Europe. This had left Germany’s TerraE Holding hoping to receive considerable funding from the EU government. Also Northvolt that plans to built a Gigafactory in Sweden has received support from both its home country as well as the EU and is working on a pilot plant to start with. Siemens is backing the company led by former Tesla manager Peter Carlsson. In France, Siemens is also cooperating with Saft, Manz and Solvay. Together they want to develop solid-state batteries and had openly called for EU funding (we reported).
The hope for solid-state batteries may be one of the reasons the industry as well as investors are holding back. The battery business is one of scale and so established Asian manufacturers have a clear advantage over any newcomers. Furthermore, almost all major carmakers are looking to advance solid-state battery technology although most are still on research stage and far from mass production.
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