European battery ‘Gigafactory’ opens
With construction taking only a little over a year, BMZ, a developer and producer of intelligent lithium-ion batteries, has now opened up the first two production, logistics and office buildings in addition to an existing production areas of 7,000 m² at the company’s present headquarters. In the manufacturing units comprising 4,800 m² each, up to 200 million lithium-ion batteries of the most different kind and size with an overall storage capacity of about 15 GWh can be developed, produced and tested every year.
By 2020 four further production, laboratory and office buildings covering a total space of 15,000 m² are planned on the new company site of 55,000 m². After the completion of the construction works up to 1,500 BMZ employees will produce 800 million lithium-ion batteries in a range of different sizes annually with an overall storage capacity of 30 Gwh, from the industrial site in Karlst ein-Großwelzheim alone.
At present the company has around 120,000 m² production sites in its own companies in Germany, China, the USA and Poland. Company founder and owner Sven Bauer explains, “The current discussions on subsidies for electric cars often forget that lithium-ion batteries are also used in e-bikes, electrical appliances, gardening tools, energy storage systems, transport vehicles, excavators and so on.”
“Unlike electric cars we are presently undergoing a real demand boom in many of these sectors, and we assume that the demand in these segments will further increase by 15 to 30% annually in the coming years depending on application range. The modular concept of our new ultra-modern factory units enables BMZ to respond even faster and more flexible to this growth scenario as well as specified customer requests in the future.”
The setup of Europe’s biggest lithium-ion battery factory in Karlstein shows – according to Bauer – how important this technology has become especially for the industry location Germany. The battery expert assumes that by 2020 wireless solutions will dominate the markets; a development that will offer enormous growth opportunities.
The request for maximum mobility stimulates not only the demand for well-known appliances such as vacuum cleaners or drill hammers. With modern lithium-ion batteries numerous new ideas can be realized of which robotic lawn mowers are only one of many examples. The market potential for battery-powered appliances is enormous.
“From our point of view it is most important to commonly build up our own production of lithium-ion cells in Germany, too. That is the only way to reduce the dependency risks on the few, mainly Asiatic cell producers in the long run,” says Bauer.
As a first intermediate step, BMZ intends to launch their own extremely efficient cell, which is to be applied in their own as well as customer-related battery systems. The cell, which will be available in prototype form at the end of this year claims 100% higher durability, 68% more performance, 88% more energy, 400% more charging current and up to 60% more capacity compared with usual cells according to the industrial standard 18650.
In 2015, the company, which was founded in 1994, achieved a turnover of some 350 million euros as the largest independent European lithium-ion battery system developer and manufacturer, with more than 1,200 employees worldwide. The 500 million threshold is expected to be broken in 2020 at the latest.
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