Europe wants at least ten mega-battery factories
By 2025 Europe wants at least ten to twenty mega-battery factories on the continent and is willing to reach deep in its pocket for that. Belgian battery material supplier Umicore, who just announced to invest 660 million euro in a European factory, is one of the key players in EU Commissioner for Energy Maros Sefcovic’s plan for the ‘Airbus of battery-like’ consortium to be created.
After a first meeting with the European Investment Bank (EIB), automotive industry and chemical concerns making battery materials, the plan for one or more ‘consortia’ like the one created for Airbus in the sixties, is taking shape.
No real major player in Europe
Commissioner Sefovic is to announce his precise plans on February 23rd, but already unveiled part of it at a second meeting with the European industry.
Today there is no real major player active in Europe to make the batteries needed for the electric cars that are going to drive on European roads in the years to come. Most of these factories are situated in Asia. If one out of three cars should be electric by 2024, Europe will need its own factories to provide the 200 GWh battery capacity estimated to be necessary.
Potential of 205 billion euro a year
The potential European market for batteries will be gigantic with 250 billion euro per year. Globally some 600 GWh battery capacity will be needed, too much for one player. “My feeling is we rather need several manufacturers with different strengths to work together on this”, Sefovic says. He thinks it will cost 20 billion euro to get on par with Asia and the United States.
For 2018 – 2019 Europe has 200 million euro ready to finance manufacturers of batteries or battery components. Other support programs will provide an extra 2.2 billion euro for battery related projects.
Two Belgian chemical companies, Umicore and Solvay, can play a key role in this as Umicore focuses on crucial battery materials as cathodes, and Solvay on chemical components that improve the energy density of batteries.
“Maybe the European Investment Bank can finance a battery factory and have it repaid for by a hire purchase system”, top-lobbyist Egbert Lox from Umicore said at Sefovic’s press conference on Monday.
Umicore is looking for a location suitable for its new battery material factory in Europe. In Belgium the cities of Antwerp with the former Opel site and Genk with the former Ford factory, are doing their best to reel in the big fish. But slow administrative procedures in Belgium might be a drawback, Umicore says.
Europe itself wants to loosen the strict rules for countries to support their industry financially, if it’s about technology sectors that will benefit the whole of Europe and not the country alone.