Germany hopes to kickstart EU battery-making in 2019

Germany wants to turbo-charge Europe's battery capacity
Germany wants to turbo-charge Europe's battery capacity

German economy minister Peter Altmaier said Tuesday Berlin would provide one billion euros ($1.3 billion) of funding for electric car battery production by 2021, as talks with companies reach an advanced stage.

"In the coming months we want to create the conditions for batteries to be produced on a mass scale in Europe," Altmaier said after meeting European Union energy commissioner Maros Sefcovic in Berlin.

The close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel added that "several consortiums are in the process of forming" with talks involving firms from France, Poland, the Netherlands and Austria.

Politicians have repeatedly called for battery-making capacity in the EU.

Altmaier said that the first results of the talks should emerge by year's end, with "concrete investment decisions" falling by the end of March 2019 ahead of a factory opening in 2021.

He aims for the EU to supply 30 percent of global demand by 2030 with "several production sites" in Germany and elsewhere.

EU carmakers currently buy cells from foreign manufacturers—mostly in Asia—before building them into the massive batteries needed to .

After years of scandal over diesel pollution and with tougher carbon reduction targets biting, most producers plan to renew their fleets with dozens of electric models in the coming years—setting demand for electricity storage soaring.

"According to available forecasts, the in Europe could be worth 250 billion euros per year from 2025 onwards," commissioner Sefcovic said.

But while manufacturers acknowledge batteries' place at the heart of their future products, none has so far been willing to risk setting up a battery cell factory in Europe.

"The scale and speed of investment needed means no industrial actor, or EU country, can do this alone," Sefcovic said, promising an "Airbus of EU batteries".

In Airbus a pan-European aircraft manufacturer was created in 1970 that nowadays battles US-based Boeing for global dominance.

One step ahead of the government-driven initiatives is Chinese battery maker CATL, which announced in July a mammoth new factory in central Germany to supply European customers.

"We may not win the contest for the cheapest battery, but the contest for the best is still open and undecided, we can take on this competition," Altmaier said.

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© 2018 AFP

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Nov 13, 2018
Regardless of where you set up the factory, the minerals required still come from China, Bolivia, Congo, etc. and the companies are afraid of supply shortages and price hikes that result from increased production.

60% of the world's raw Cobalt comes from the DRC, and 90% of the refining capacity is in China. Reason being that none of the western countries want to take on the environmental problems associated with producing these minerals - most of the production in the west, US and EU, was shuttered down due to pollution concerns and protests.

You can subsidize the batteries for electric cars all you want - the money is still flowing east. It will go the same way as the solar subsidies that were supposed to kickstart domestic PV panel production in Germany, but actually just boosted expensive imports.

Nov 13, 2018
The world's top 3 lithium-producing countries from 2016, as reported by the US Geological Survey are Australia, Chile and Argentina
Panasonic, Tesla's battery supplier, announced at the end of last month that they are developing batteries that don't need cobalt. And they have some help: Goodenough and other researchers have also developed rechargeable batteries that don't need cobalt

Nov 13, 2018
Not a bad idea. Germany has always been a production powerhouse.

Nov 13, 2018
Oh, and BTW, @Eikka, just so you know lithium is more abundant than lead in the Earth's crust.

Just for reference.

Nov 13, 2018
Why not put some real money into this, like 100 billion.

Nov 23, 2018
Oh, and BTW, @Eikka, just so you know lithium is more abundant than lead in the Earth's crust.

Just for reference.

Yes, if you're willing to sift through tons and tons of soil, and then running through various expensive chemical processes to separate it. Lithium is reactive, so it rarely occurs as a simple pure mineral.

Commercially viable deposits are typically situated in salt flats where lithium is found as lithium carbonate or lithium chloride. Lithium carbonate is easier (cheaper) to use for making batteries, whereas lithium chloride is typically used for producing metallic lithium for use in different alloys.

Much of the world's production is in the form of lithium chloride. Lithium can be found "everywhere", but only certain places actually have readily available and clean lithium carbonate deposits, and for the rest you'd have to pay much more to convert the lithium into a compatible form, hence making batteries more expensive.

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