Nov 13, 2018 - 02:37 pm

Europe to carry 30% of global battery cell production

Peter Altmaier, economy minister outlining his take on EBA; Germany to set aside €1BN


Germany’s economy minister Peter Altmaier delivers his latest take on the European Battery Alliance (EBA) in Berlin today. While he signals strong targets and confirms funding of one billion euros, he cannot name concrete details of the planned battery cell production in Europe or Germany.

As far as names and locations are concerned, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is putting off the journalists gathered for the press conference in Berlin. “Signals from the industry suggest that concrete results may be available around the turn of the year. After that, concrete funding opportunities for consortia and locations will be decided,” says a BMWI briefing distributed at the meeting. So while the state speaks of being “concrete” the matter is in fact anything but concrete.

Yet, minister Altmaier had some news concerning the targets of the planned battery cell production in Europe. The goal is to cover around 30 percent of global demand for battery cells from German and European production by 2030. According to what he calls “legitimate estimates”, worldwide demand for mobile and stationary power storage systems will increase more than tenfold by this time. Indeed more than enough volume to enter the market on a large scale.

So, while politics are clear in what they want, it is the industry Altmaier explicitly asks to deliver. For manufacturers to venture into the investment-intensive business, his ministry, the BMWI is providing 1 billion euros in subsidies until 2021. This funding framework will be set up in accordance with the possibilities of the “Important Projects of Common European Interest” opened up by the European Commission. Specifically, the government wants to support German companies that cooperate with European partners.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, interest is high – “not only in Germany, but also in France, Poland and Austria, among others”. Altmaier says he has has been talking with his counterparts in these countries, like the Vice-President of the European Commission, Meros Sefcovic, the responsible EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and industry representatives for quite some time. So there is a a strategic approach to industrial battery cell production, which must now be further concretised with all parties involved.

Here it is again, the issue of becoming concrete. While Altmaier has announced various plans for a German or European cell production in an almost weekly rhythm, any such initiative has yet to materialise. Today he had wanted to present a new battery cell consortium reportedly but instead was left once more with plans and no players.

Only a month ago, minister Altmaier proposed the construction of two large-scale factories, funded with a billion euro each. He has now confirmed said funding. Yet, if Germany will ever become big in batteries is still uncertain. So far, Germany and Poland have agreed to cooperate reportedly.

Altmaier’s call once more echoed the European Commission that has started to shape a European Battery Alliance (EBA) not unlike Airbus earlier this year. While the EC is calling for a “green battery” that adheres to EU standards in order to set it apart from Asian competitors, the industry however, is pointing to a technological solution, namely solid-state batteries. The German government has reserved funding for this as well. 16 million euros are to form a new research cluster reportedly.

On the European level, players such as Northvolt of Sweden or Saft of France, that set up a cooperation with Siemens, Manz and Solvay are moving ahead and want to develop (solid-state) batteries with EU funding (we reported).

Moreover, it is the big companies from China and Korea such as CATL and SK Innovation that are installing local battery cell production on the continent, for now.

with reporting by from Berlin

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13.11.2018 14:10