Europe’s leading battery start-up is aiming to build almost triple the number of large factories it currently has planned, and is open to tie-ups with the continent’s leading industrial players, as it significantly scales up its ambitions.
Northvolt, the Swedish group that makes batteries for electric cars, energy storage and other industrial uses, has raised more money than any other European start-up this year, pulling in €1bn from the likes of BMW, Goldman Sachs and Ikea.
Now it is trying to develop itself as a local player to compete against Asian companies such as Panasonic and Tesla, which recently announced plans for its first factory on the continent in Berlin.
Peter Carlsson, Northvolt’s chief executive and a former Tesla manager, told the Financial Times the company was aiming for about 150 gigawatt hours of battery capacity by 2030, which would give it about a quarter market share in Europe.
That would provide the equivalent of batteries for 2m Tesla cars, and mark a significant step-up from its current plans for 64GWh from two factories in Sweden and one through a joint venture with carmaker Volkswagen in Germany.
“There is no doubt our ambitions go much further than 64GWh. Over the next 10 years we will see the industrial landscape for the industry shaping. We think 150GWh, or 25 per cent market share, is not unrealistic,” said Mr Carlsson, on a visit to its first small factory in Vasteras, which is due to open by the end of this year.
Europe is the scene of a big fight between established players such as Panasonic, Tesla and China’s CATL, as well as a series of local start-ups, all trying to establish themselves as key makers of this crucial technology for the electrification of cars and other industries.
The market for batteries is expected to take off as electric vehicles in particular grow in popularity due to climate concerns.
Northvolt is backed not just by the European Investment Bank but some of the top names in European industry including truckmaker Scania, and engineering groups ABB and Siemens.
It is touting its first big factory in Skelleftea, close to the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, as capable of producing one of the world’s greenest batteries due to its use of hydroelectric power. The first stage is due to open in 2021 and have a capacity of at least 32GWh by 2024, with the possibility to go up to 40GWh.
The joint venture with VW is set to open a battery factory in Lower Saxony, the home state of the German carmaker, with a capacity of 16GWh at the end of 2023 and a possibility to expand to 24GWh.
Mr Carlsson said Northvolt could do more joint ventures in the future as other carmakers appeared comfortable with its relationship with VW as a way of getting to a critical size quickly.
“We are definitely open going forward to different collaborations to scale further. If we want this transition to go fast, we need to partner up with people that can make this happen,” he said.
Mr Carlsson said an IPO for Northvolt was “not on the horizon” and now was the time to show its industrial partners and European policymakers that it could build its factories as planned. “For the foreseeable future, we are well capitalised. We know what we have to execute,” he added.