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A new chapter in Europe’s battery industry as Northvolt assembles first lithium-ion cell

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 09:58 -- Paul Crompton

Gigafactory developer Northvolt Ett has assembled the first lithium-ion cell to have been fully designed, developed and assembled by a homegrown European battery company.

The first cell represents a milestone for Northvolt, which aims to begin commercial delivery of cells of varying formats this year.

Marking a step-change in Europe’s battery industry, the prismatic cell came off the cell assembly line on the 28 December following the commissioning of Northvolt Ett’s gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden.

Commissioning and upscaling of the factory will continue through into 2022, when the first commercial customer deliveries will be made.

Peter Carlsson, CEO and co-founder of Northvolt, said: “Of course, this first cell is only the beginning. Over the course of the coming years, we look forward to expanding production capacity greatly.” 

The battery cell was developed at Northvolt Labs, Northvolt’s industrialisation factory in Sweden, which has been in production since early 2020. 

Northvolt plans to increase capacity to 60GWh per year to fulfil more than $30 billion worth of contracts it has secured from customers, including: BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and Polestar. 

100% recycled NMC cathode

On 12 December, Northvolt announced the production of its first lithium-ion battery cell featuring a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode made entirely with metals recovered from battery waste.

Recycled nickel, manganese and cobalt metals used in the battery cell were recovered through a low-energy hydrometallurgical treatment that involves the use of an aqueous solution to isolate the metals and separate them from impurities.

Northvolt claim the process can recover up to 95% of the metals in a battery to a level of purity and performance on par with virgin material.

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Volkswagen deals to secure European EV lithium-ion battery materials and cheaper cell manufacturing

Mon, 12/13/2021 - 13:58 -- Paul Crompton

Volkswagen’s battery strategy is gathering pace with the vehicle OEM securing materials deals to supply its European lithium-ion cell production and investing in a US battery manufacturing process firm.

The first was to increase precursor and cathode material production capacities in Europe through the establishment of a joint venture with Australian firm Umicore.

The firms plan to gradually ramp up precursor and cathode material production capacity from 2025 with an initial annual production of 20GWh of materials for Volkswagen’s plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

Annual production capacity would then grow to 160GWh— enough to power around 2.2 million electric vehicles— by the end of the decade. 

The JV’s portfolio offering will cover next-generation technologies, including high-nickel chemistries. 

Thomas Schmall, member of the board of management of Volkswagen Group for Technology, and CEO of Volkswagen Group Components, said: “Volkswagen is implementing its battery strategy very consistently and at a high pace.

“Teaming up with Umicore enables us to establish a state-of-the-art supply chain in Europe as we share common values such as responsible sourcing of raw materials, as well as closed-loop thinking.”

In the context of the JV, Umicore and Volkswagen will collaborate on the “sustainable and responsible” sourcing of raw materials, with both parties planning to include elements of refining and battery recycling into the JV at a later stage.

Lithium offtake agreement

Volkswagen Group has also secured a binding lithium offtake deal with Vulcan Energy.

The deal is for the purchase of a minimum of 34,000 tonnes and a maximum of 42,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide over the duration of the agreement, which is for an initial five-year term.

Commercial delivery of the material is expected to begin in 2026. 

Volkswagen Group and Vulcan have also agreed to a first right of refusal to invest in additional capacity in the latter’s Zero Carbon Lithium Project, which is a lithium hydroxide monohydrate chemical product from its geothermal lithium brine project in the Upper Rhine Valley, Germany.

Investment in 24M Technologies

Volkswagen announced this week it would invest in Cambridge, US-based battery start-up 24M, with the goal of industrialising the latter's semi-solid process that improves the dry coating process, in the automotive battery area. 

The target is to generate "considerable cost optimisation" in future battery production by reducing material usage and eliminating several steps from the conventional production process. 

For this purpose, a new Volkswagen-owned subsidiary will further develop and upscale the technology for automotive applications based on 24M intelectual properties. 

24M President and CEO, Naoki Ota, said: “[Volkswagen's] investment, collaborative development and ability to scale globally will accelerate our manufacturing platform, thereby replacing the conventional manufacturing process and fast tracking electric vehicle adoption.” 

Prospective benefits include up to 40% less production area, considerable savings on investment and more efficient product recycling, as well as the reduction of the CO2 footprint of battery production. 

Implementing the process in large-scale production is targeted for the second half of the decade sunject to customary closing conditions allowing the transaction.

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SK and Solid Power partner to build solid-state batteries for EV market

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 10:51 -- Paul Crompton

Solid-state cell developer Solid Power has confirmed it will partner with SK Innovation to manufacture automotive-scale all-solid-state batteries under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and joint development agreement (JDA).

Korean firm SK Innovation aims to produce automotive-scale cells using US company Solid Power’s sulfide-based solid electrolyte, proprietary cell designs and production processes.

Through the JDA, the firms plan to cooperate on all-solid-state cell development, validation and production to enable the later to deliver pre-commercial all- solid-state cells to automotive customers for qualification testing. 

Solid Power plans to supply SK Innovation with its proprietary electrolyte for use in the manufacturing of all-solid-state cells. 

Under terms of the JDA, Solid Power expects to generate a small amount of revenue from both research and development and from the sale of electrolyte samples beginning in 2022. 

Derek Johnson, chief operating officer at Solid Power, said: “The JDA and MoU provide the framework for us to jointly develop and industrialize our high- content silicon all-solid-state battery cells as part of Solid Power’s current technology development roadmap.

“To successfully develop and launch our cell products, we follow the standard automotive APQP process, which will ensure our cell design meets automotive partner specifications, meets the highest quality standards and is manufacturable at high rates with high yields.

“The ability to quickly transfer production know-how and cell designs to a partner with lithium-ion production at GWh scale saves on capital expenses, in line with Solid Power’s capital light business model.” 

Blank cheque firm merger

Solid Power is in the process of merging with blank cheque company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation III (DCRC).

SK Innovation has agreed to invest $30 million in Solid Power through a subscription to purchase shares in DCRC’s previously announced PIPE transaction. 

This investment adds to the $165 million fully committed PIPE, which is anchored by investors Koch Strategy Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman funds and Van Eck Associates Corporation. 

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560Wh/kg lithium-metal cell developed in Germany using nickel-rich cathode

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 15:28 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers in Germany have developed a lithium-ion metal cell that reaches 560Wh/kg. 

The energy density— based on the total weight of the active materials— comes from a nickel-rich cathode that enables storage of high energy per mass.

The scientists are from Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany reports the cell has shown the battery’s capacity remains 88% after 1,000 cycles due to its ionic liquid electrolyte.

Researchers first used a cobalt-poor, nickel-rich layered cathode (NCM88) with the commonly used, commercially available organic electrolyte (LP30), but the cell’s storage capacity decreased as the number of cycles increased with this  combination.

By using a dual-anion ionic liquid electrolyte (ILE) the NCM88 cathode reached 560Wh/kg.

The combination of cathode and electrolyte was reported in the journal Joule.

Its initial storage capacity is 214mAh g-1 of the cathode material. The average Coulombic efficiency, i.e., the ratio between discharge and charge capacity, is 99.94%. 

Professor Stefano Passerini, director of HIU and head of the electrochemistry for Batteries Group, said: “In the electrolyte LP30, particles crack on the cathode. Inside these cracks, the electrolyte reacts and damages the structure.

“In addition, a thick mossy lithium-containing layer forms on the anode.” 

For this reason, the scientists used a non-volatile, poorly-flammable, dual-anion ionic liquid electrolyte (ILE) instead to reduce structural modifications on the nickel-rich cathode 

Image: With a promising combination of cathode and electrolyte, the HIU researchers aim to make a very high energy density possible. (Photo: Amadeus Bramsiepe, KIT)

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Energy Assurance extends lithium-ion battery testing capabilities with new laboratory

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 15:37 -- Paul Crompton

Start-up Energy Assurance has expanded its battery analysis capabilities to include large-format cell testing for the electric/hybrid automotive and energy storage systems with the purchase of a laboratory.

The 20,000-square-foot laboratory will enable the firm to expand beyond small-to medium-format battery testing to deliver a third-party resource for battery testing.

The company has begun operating out of the building in Massachusetts, US.

The acquisition extends Energy Assurance's capacity to around 3,000 cell and battery test channels with the ability to test lithium-ion and other chemistry cells and batteries up to 150V and 1,350A.

The centre is in addition to it’s testing laboratory in Atlanta, US. 

The new laboratory uses all MACCOR channels, and was previously owned by an unnamed “leading battery cell manufacturer” for automotive use.

Cindy Millsaps, CEO of Energy Assurance, said: "As the market for larger and more energy-dense batteries grows exponentially, so does the demand for testing to support the growth, making the timing right for this acquisition.

"The acquisition dramatically increases our high-current cycling capacity, and we can now test the full gamut of lithium-ion cells for high-performance products—from small to large and from low to high current—within our facilities." 

Energy Assurance was founded by Millsaps and John Copeland, both former Motorola test laboratory engineers, in 2018.

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JV sets goal of establishing commercial lithium-ion battery recycling in Europe

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 09:45 -- Paul Crompton

Battery recycling firm Primobius, the German company owned by Neometals and SMS group, has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Slovakian lithium-ion cell maker InoBat. 

The MoU provides an evaluation framework for a Primobius-InoBat commercial lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Central/Eastern Europe. 

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Europe to grasp quarter of lithium-ion production market as global capacity quadruples to 1.3 TWh

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 15:18 -- Paul Crompton

Global lithium-ion cell manufacturing capacity could rise fourfold compared to last year's figures to reach 1.3TWh in 2030 thanks in part to the rise of gigafactories being built in Europe, according to industry analysts Wood Mackenzie.

The company’s report shows that 119 battery manufacturing facilities that are operational, under construction or announced by more than 50 vendors will increase global battery making capacity. 

Asia will continue to dominate the industry, with the area’s manufacturers— CATL, LG Chem, BYD, and SK Innovation— leading in the capacity arms race. 

Wood Mackenzie senior analyst Mitalee Gupta said: “Manufacturing capacity in Asia Pacific accounts for 80% of global capacity pipeline. The region will remain the leader of lithium-ion battery production for the next decade.  

“Within Asia Pacific, China dominates the pipeline capacity and is expected to double its capacity from 345GWh this year to more than 800GWh by 2030. 

“In addition to local vendors’ rapid expansion in China, foreign manufacturers such as LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation have also been adding new lines after they became eligible for subsidies from the Chinese government in 2019.” 

However, emerging European vendors such as Northvolt in Norway, ACC— the joint venture between Saft and PSA Group (8GWh production plant rising to 24GWh) and Britishvolt could push Europe’s market share from 7% of global capacity, to around a quarter in 2030 amid growing demand for batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage. 

Growth will also be driven by Asian manufacturers investing heavily in new plants in Europe, including: CATL’s Erfurt Plant (Germany), LG Chem’s Wroclaw Plant (Poland), and Samsung SDI’s Goed Plant (Hungary). 

The Americas will maintain its share for the next decade, suggest WoodMac, with pipeline capacity concentrated in the US, and led by Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada. 

In terms of battery chemistry, NMC is the mainstream chemistry in operating facilities, followed by LFP. However, announced capacity is often unspecified due to constantly advancing battery technologies and changing market preference. 

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Skoltech scientists use bespoke lithium-ion cell to view SEI formation

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 10:36 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers from Russia’s Skoltech Center for Energy Science and Technology (CEST) have used a bespoke lithium-ion cell to visualise solid electrolyte interphrase (SEI) formation on battery-grade materials.

The specially designed cell allowed the measurements necessary for this direct observation of SEI formation on battery-grade carbonaceous electrode materials using in situ atomic force microscopy (AFM). 

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Amte Power and Britishvolt sign MoU for UK’s landmark battery gigafactories

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 13:31 -- Paul Crompton

UK battery maker Amte Power and Britishvolt announce plans on 20 May to build the UK’s first lithium-ion battery cell gigafactories servicing the automotive and energy storage markets.

The British start-ups have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) focussed on enabling the scalable production of lithium-ion batteries to support the UK’s Road to Zero (at least half 50% of new car sales to be ultra low emission by 2030) targets and transition to electrification. 

Britishvolt aims to add to Amte’s 1GWh manufacturing plant plants with a 30GWh factory.

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Redflow set to launch Thai battery production

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 09:18 -- News Editor
Redflow set to launch Thai battery production

Australian flow battery firm Redflow Limited has started installing equipment for a battery production line at its new factory in Thailand— putting the firm on track to launch initial operations in the country by the end of the year.

The announcement follows Redflow’s formation of a new entity— Redflow (Thailand) Limited— to create a base in the country to serve its Southeast Asia business.

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