VW opens lithium battery labs in Germany
Tech from these labs could influence battery materials demand Metal Tech News - September 22, 2021
Last updated 9/28/2021 at 3:26pm
In a move that will shape the future of batteries powering electric Volkswagens, the German automaker has opened one of the most modern laboratories for cell research and development in Europe.
This laboratory in Salzgitter, Germany, will help develop Volkswagen Group's unified cell, a format adaptable to various mixes of battery chemistries, and is compatible with all major upcoming product and production process innovations. This lithium battery, which is expected to feature a flat prismatic-type cell, is expected to unlock synergies and reduce battery costs by up to 50%.
Volkswagen Group Components, which is responsible for the battery and charging technology roadmap across all Volkswagen brands, plans to be producing the unified cell at Salzgitter by 2025.
To accomplish its lofty battery goals, Volkswagen Group is investing some 70 million euros (US$82 million) in four facilities that are expected to have around 250 experts conducting research in the areas of cell development, analytics, and testing.
"With our new, state-of-the-art laboratories, we are further expanding our development, process and production expertise for the battery cell – the heart of the battery-electric vehicle," said Volkswagen Group Components Chairman Thomas Schmall.
Considering Volkswagen Group's ambitions when it comes to both electric vehicle and lithium battery production, the technologies emerging from these labs are expected to significantly influence the demand for battery minerals and metals such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, and nickel.
Volkswagen introduced its battery and charging technology roadmap during its Power Day held in March. In conjunction with the event, the German automaker announced that it had placed a US$14 billion order with Northvolt, a Swedish company focused on producing the greenest rechargeable batteries in the world.
This massive deal with Northvolt is part of a larger strategy to increase the sustainability and lower the costs of putting batteries in the roughly 26 million EVs Volkswagen Group plans to manufacture between now and 2030.
With Volkswagen looking to scale up 240 gigawatt-hours per year of battery manufacturing in Europe, Northvolt agreed to sell its share of Northvolt Zwei, a battery manufacturing plant originally being built in Salzgitter under a joint venture between the two companies. Initially envisioned as a 16 GWh plant, the Salzgitter factory will produce a unified cell for Volkswagen's high-volume segment beginning in 2025 and will be incrementally expanded to 40 GWh of annual production.
The new laboratories being built alongside Volkswagen's lithium battery plant in Salzgitter will enable extensive cell testing programs with up to 200 different analytical methods and the development of new formulations.
"In the future, innovations for the cells of today and tomorrow will be created in Salzgitter. Its equipment makes the new laboratories one of the most modern facilities for cell research in Europe," said Frank Blome, head of the battery cell and battery system business unit at Volkswagen Group Components.
This initial 2,500-square-meter (26,900 square feet) facility will feature cutting-edge technologies such as one of the world's few scanning electron microscopes for detecting lithium.
The laboratories are split into four areas:
• Cell development lab – Where new materials are evaluated for their suitability, and chemical formulations as well as electrode materials and processes are further developed. Promising innovations are sent directly from here to the pilot line next door for small-scale production.
• Analytics lab – Where researchers disassemble components and raw materials of the cells and perform competitive analyses as well as quality assurance.
• Environmental and safety lab – Where cells are subjected to endurance tests in six special chambers and subjected to electrical, thermal, or mechanical stresses. New test methods are also researched here.
• Electrical test field laboratory – Where cells of all formats and power classes are measured electrically and tested for performance, aging phenomena, and long-term robustness.
"With the opening of the laboratories, we have reached the next strategic milestone," said Schmall. "Now we are pushing ahead with preparations for our own cell production with all our strength."