Porsche & Customcells form Cellforce JV for battery cells

Porsche and Customcells have now completed the previously announced formation of their joint venture to produce high-performance battery cells. Cellforce Group GmbH is to be based in Tübingen in Germany.

The joint venture was already on the list of the German Bundeskartellamt (German Federal Cartel Office) for ongoing merger control proceedings in April, so the conclusion of the deal comes as no surprise. In an official announcement, however, Porsche is now providing several details on the organisation and thrust of the joint venture. The Stuttgart-based luxury carmaker holds an 83.75 per cent stake in Cellforce and is investing “a high double-digit million sum” in the company. The managing directors are Markus Gräf as Chief Operating Officer and Wolfgang Hüsken as Chief Financial Officer on the Porsche side, and Torge Thönnessen as Chief Technology Officer on the Customcells side. By 2025, the workforce is expected to grow from an initial 13 jointly recruited employees to up to 80 people. The German federal government and the state of Baden-Württemberg are supporting the project with around 60 million euros.

The main objective of the joint venture is to operate a production facility with a capacity of at least 100 MWh per year, which, according to the partners, corresponds to high-performance battery cells for 1,000 vehicles. The site is to be located near the Weissach development centre and Porsche AG’s headquarters in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. However, other locations besides Tübingen are apparently still on the shortlist. According to media reports, operations are scheduled to start in 2024.

The chemistry of the new high-performance cells is to be based on silicon as the anode material. Porsche CEO Oliver Blume already announced at Volkswagen’s Power Day event in mid-March that Porsche intends to pursue its own path in its battery strategy – with the silicon-based anode instead of the usual graphite.

According to Porsche, this should make it possible to increase energy density compared to current series batteries significantly. In addition, the manufacturer says that the battery can be more compact with the same energy content, while the battery’s chemistry also reduces internal resistance. The company says this results in the battery being able to absorb more energy during recuperation while also making it more powerful during fast charging. Another special feature of the Cellforce battery cell is that it tolerates high temperatures better and functions at sub-zero temperatures, and remains stable for years over many charging cycles.

Porsche says that the high-performance batteries are to be used in motorsport. There were already many indications that Cellforce’s high-performance cells would probably not be used in production models such as the Taycan or the upcoming battery-electric Macan based on the PPE. This is because Porsche buys these from other cell manufacturers. It is still open as to whether the cells will also be used in limited-edition road-going sports cars.

The joint venture has brought BASF on board as a cell development partner for the next generation of the lithium-ion battery. The chemical specialist is to supply the cathode materials (HEDTM NCM) for the high-performance cells. Meanwhile, the P3 Group is no longer involved in the joint venture. However, in April, it was still said, based on documents from the German Federal Cartel Office, that Porsche wanted to establish the joint venture together with Customcells and P3.

In fact, the idea for the production of high-performance battery cells initially arose from an initiative of the P3 Group. The Stuttgart-based consultancy developed the concept and initiated a funding application with Customcells in 2019 as part of the European IPCEI project EuBatIn (Important Project of Common European Interest – European Battery Innovation). This is to be based on innovative and sustainable technologies. Porsche joined as a project partner from the automotive industry. This year, P3 Group decided to maintain neutrality and independence in the market and not be directly involved in the joint venture. Here the two companies point out that P3 still acts as a technology consultancy in battery cells and has signed a long-term service agreement with Cellforce Group.

Meanwhile, Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, commented: “As a new Porsche subsidiary, the Cellforce Group will be instrumental in driving forward the research, development, production and sale of high-performance battery cells.” He added that the joint venture positions his company at the forefront of the global competition for the most powerful battery cell and makes it “the link between the unmistakable Porsche driving experience and sustainability. This is how we shape the future of the sports car.”

Customcells operates in two locations in Germany and is active in prototypes, small and medium series. Since 2012, the company has grown from a two-person operation to a company with around 100 employees.

Reporting by Cora Werwitzke



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