Battery industrialisation: Europe pushes the envelope

Battery industrialisation: Europe pushes the envelope

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

In view of the increasingly strong competition from China for batteries for electric cars, the European automotive industry is accelerating its activities to develop lighter, more powerful batteries and to build up its own production capacities. Stellantis in particular is setting the pace.

Through its corporate venture fund, Stellantis is investing in the Californian materials expert Lyten. The company is considered a pioneer in customizable three-dimensional graphene, a material that experts believe has great potential for the transition to sustainable mobility. With the transaction, Stellantis aims to gain access to enabler technologies for lightweight components, on-board sensors and, most importantly, the development of lithium-sulfur batteries. Lyten has significant expertise in this area under the brand name LytCell.

Unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries, Lyten’s lithium-sulfur batteries do not use nickel, cobalt or manganese. This reduces the carbon footprint by approximately 60% compared to current best-in-class batteries, paving the way for the lowest-emission EV battery on the global market. The raw materials for lithium-sulfur batteries have the advantage of being sourced and manufactured locally in North America and Europe, supporting regional supply security. Perhaps even more important is the fact that Lyten’s 3D Graphene technology can be used to increase battery performance – talk of doubling energy density and correspondingly increasing vehicle range. With this profile, Lyten and its technology are meeting the needs of the industry, which requires lightweight, energy-dense batteries without disrupting the supply chain.

As traditional lithium-ion battery materials for electric vehicle manufacturing are in short supply, Lyten’s lithium-sulfur battery offers an alternative cathode solution without nickel, manganese and cobalt that supports the global transition to mass-market electric vehicles. Lyten’s goal is to ensure a supply of high-performance, environmentally responsible products for its customers while enabling automakers to benefit from growing policy incentives in the U.S. and Europe, such as those provided for in the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Lyten’s lithium-sulfur battery, composite materials and sensor technologies will initially be produced at the 14,000-square-foot facility in Silicon Valley. In addition to producing batteries for electric vehicles, Lyten is working with customers to begin supplying lithium-sulfur batteries and 3D graphene-enriched composites for specialty markets in 2023. More announcements are planned for later this year.

But it’s by no means just in the area of future technologies that things are happening. Possibly the more important news of the week shows how large-scale battery manufacturing is also making headway in Europe. And this is where Stellantis is once again playing a role: the Automotive Cells Company (ACC), a joint venture between Stellantis, battery group SAFT and Mercedes opened its first gigafactory this week in Douvrin in northern France. With an investment of around €2billion, ACC plans to produce batteries there with a capacity of 13.4 GWh annually. This would mean that ACC’s Gigafactory would have more than one and a half times the capacity of its competitor CATL’s factory in Erfurt, Germany, which has already gone online. By 2030, that capacity is expected to expand to 40 GWh, enough for about 800,000 cars. And ACC still has significant expansion plans; in total, the JV wants to invest €7 billion. Among other things, the company plans to build another gigafactory in Kaiserslautern, Germany, as early as 2025. With this and another planned factory in Tremoli (Italy), total production capacity should then rise to 120 GWh.

Whether even this capacity will be sufficient for the needs of the two automakers under ACC’s owners, Stellantis and Mercedes, is still unclear. After all, Mercedes wants to build only electric cars by 2030, and Stellantis is also powering ahead with the electrification of its model range – for example, the company wants to achieve a sales mix of 100% battery-electric passenger cars in Europe and 50% for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in the USA by 2030. However, experts estimate that Mercedes will already need 200 GWh of its own batteries annually by the end of the decade alone. To this end, Mercedes is working with other partners, including CATL. Stellantis has secured a capacity of around 400 GWh by 2030 thanks to additional supply contracts and a total of five gigafactories in Europe and North America.

Related articles:

Mercedes-Benz joins Stellantis to build European battery giant

European battery firms push for sustainability laws

Stellantis bets €30bn on solid state batteries

China’s EV exports could hit European car market hard

Global BEV market booming – German OEMs limping behind

CATL ships its first European battery cells


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