Panasonic finally looks at European battery gigafactory

Panasonic finally looks at European battery gigafactory

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Panasonic has signed a strategic deal to explore setting up a battery Gigafactory in Europe. The company is the only major battery maker not to have such a factory in the region and is looking at developing one powered by hydroelectric power. 

The EU is aiming to be independent in battery production by 2025, although this relies on Chinese manufacturers for much of the capacity.

“I am confident that by 2025, the EU will be able to produce enough battery cells to meet the needs of the European automotive industry, and even to build our export capacity,” said Maros Sefcovic, European Commission Vice President at the European Conference on Batteries this week.

There are 15 gigafactories under construction in the region, ranging from the homegrown NorthVolt and Saft to LG Chem from Taiwan, SK Innovation from South Korea and CATL and BYD from China. Several organisations, including startup BritishVolt, are looking for public and private financing for a battery plant in the UK.

Panasonic’s deal with energy company Equinor and industrial group Hydro is looking at how to set up a sustainable and cost-competitive European battery business. The result of the evaluation of the demand from customers for a sustainable plant in Norway is expected by the middle of 2021.

“This collaboration combines Panasonic’s position as an innovative technology company and leader in lithium-ion batteries, with the deep industrial experience of Equinor and Hydro, both strong global players, to potentially pave the way for a robust and sustainable battery business in Norway,” said Mototsugu Sato, Executive Vice President of Panasonic. “Panasonic has powered the last two revolutions in the automotive industry – first by powering hybrids and now, by powering multiple generations of all electric vehicles. We are pleased to enter into this initiative to explore implementing sustainable, highly advanced technology and supply chains to deliver on the exacting needs of lithium-ion battery customers and support the renewable energy sector in the European region.”

The companies will also investigate the potential for an integrated battery value chain and for co-location of supply chain partners. The findings from this initial exploratory phase will form the basis for subsequent decisions.

Sato says the company sees the strategic partnership with Equinor and Hydro as a potential basis for future development and growth in the battery sector in the European region. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Allan Swan, President of Panasonic Energy North America, Al Cook, Executive Vice President of Global Strategy & Business Development in Equinor, and Arvid Moss, Executive Vice President of Energy and Corporate Development in Hydro.

Panasonic Energy North American supplies electric car maker Tesla and is building the new battery technology for the company. Tesla is building a car making plant in Berlin that will also include battery manufacturing.

“Our companies seek to be leaders in the energy transition. The creation of this world-class battery partnership demonstrates Equinor’s ambition to become a broad energy company. We believe that battery storage will play an increasingly important role in bringing energy systems to net zero emissions. By pooling our different areas of energy expertise, our companies will seek to create a battery business that is profitable, scalable and sustainable,” said Cook at Equinor.

“We expect battery production to grow rapidly as a solution to the world’s number one challenge, climate change. We have already seen in recent years that Hydro’s unique combination of capabilities from renewable energy and processing industries provide a strong foundation for partnerships for exploring growth opportunities in the battery industry,” said Moss at Hydro.

“We believe the combined strengths of Panasonic, Equinor and Hydro represent an attractive starting point for exploring the possibilities for a profitable and sustainable battery business in Norway, where we have a strong foothold, renewable power base and close proximity to the European market,” he said.

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