European batteries: Opel, PSA & Saft build for 64 GWh

Image: Daniel Bönnighausen

This week, the EU Commission gave the go-ahead for what is being called “the battery alliance” in seven European countries. Subsidies were approved for 32 GWh battery cell production with PSA and Saft at the Opel factory in Kaiserslautern, Germany and an identical plant in France, making a total production capacity of 64 GWh.

At the same time, Varta from Ellwangen, Germany, wants to put silicon-anodes into mass production, and German chemicals group BASF is also becoming more concrete about their battery cell production plans likely to be located near Berlin.

The European states involved, which include Germany and France, will support the research and innovation project with up to 3.2 billion euros. According to the Commission, Germany has promised 1.25 billion euros, while France is contributing around 960 million. For the first major battery project in Europe, French battery cell manufacturer Saft SA will provide technology and form a consortium with PSA and Opel for the two plants in France and Germany.

In Germany, construction on the new plant at the Opel factory in Kaiserslautern will start in 2023. Around 2,000 jobs are to be created in the resulting plant that should have a production capacity of 32 GWh. At the same time, the consortium will build an identical factory at a site in France. With the production capacity of the two plants, PSA would have its own battery cell production of 64 GWh. This will be, for example, far more than the capacity of the cell factory in Salzgitter, Germany, planned by Volkswagen and Northvolt. The plant there will already start production at the end of 2023 with a capacity of 16 GWh and will be expanded to 24 GWh later.

In Kaiserslautern, employee representatives and politicians welcomed the decision of the EU Commission to support the project with subsidies. The planned settlement is an important signal, “especially for the feeling, heart and head” of many employees, said the Kaiserslautern Opel Works Council Chairman Thorsten Zangerle. Until now, the components plant in Kaiserslautern has faced an uncertain future since many of the parts produced there for combustion engines will be less in demand in the future.

With around 3,000 employees, the plant is now one of the largest employers in the German Western Palatinate. The regional Economics Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said of the approval from Brussels: “I am pleased that the EU Commission has cleared the way for a very important industrial and structural settlement project in Rhineland-Palatinate.” Minister-President Malu Dreyer (SPD) described the Commissions support as an important step towards creating future-proof jobs in the Western Palatinate.

The EU Commission also gave the green light for what is being called a battery alliance in seven European countries. The goal is to build enough battery factories to adequately supply the expected boom in electric cars in Europe. 17 companies will be directly involved in the project, including German companies BASF chemical company, the car manufacturer BMW and the battery company Varta. These companies will cooperate with each other and more than 70 external partners, including smaller companies and public research institutions.

The battery manufacturer Varta from Ellwangen, Germany, has not specified the amount of support they have been allocated by the Commission. While Opel/PSA is primarily concerned with the production, Varta wants to develop lithium-ion technology further with the aim of increasing the energy density of cells. At the same time, Varta also aims to put silicon-dominated anodes into mass production.

With the granting of EU support, the participation of the German chemicals group BASF is also becoming more concrete. The rumour from March is that BASF is considering the construction of a lithium cathode production plant at its Schwarzheide site in Brandenburg near Berlin. Although this has still not been officially confirmed, it is looking more and more likely. The chemical giant apparently plans to invest around 500 million euros in the project. “We want to produce cathode materials for 300,000 electric cars a year from precursors from our factory in Finland,” BASF spokeswoman Christine Haupt said. “After the decision of the EU Commission, the Board of Executive Directors will decide on the German production site.”

Michael Stübgen, head of the Brandenburg CDU and deputy head of government, wrote to the German Press Agency (DPA) on Monday evening when asked whether he could confirm the report from Berlin newspaper B.Z.: “To my knowledge, yes! A few weeks after the surprising announcement of the Tesla settlement in Grünheide, the production of cathode materials in Schwarzheide would be the next major e-mobility project in Brandenburg.” The amount of subsidies allocated to BASF has not been made public.

with additional reporting by Carrie Hampel

All sources are in German: (Opel), (Varta), (BASF), (BASF), (BASF)


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