Northvolt’s vision: the world’s greenest batteries
The world needs to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. When that happens, Northvolt expects to be a major operator thanks to its lithium-ion batteries and energy storage solutions.
“We aim to be a key player when maritime transport has to reduce its carbon footprint,” says Mikael Thorslund at Northvolt.
IT’S BEEN CALLED the industrial project of the century in Sweden. Big words, but Northvolt’s business concept certainly comes at the right time. A little more than three years after Peter Carlsson – with a background in Tesla’s management group – founded the company, it’s not only fully occupied developing “the world’s greenest batteries” (its vision) but is also in the process of building two production plants, one in Sweden and one in Germany.
The Swedish plant, Northvolt One, will be located in Skellefteå and cover an area of half a million square meters.
Battery production from scratch
“We will produce lithium-ion batteries from scratch there,” says Mikael Thorslund, director of business development for industrial applications at Northvolt.
“Among other things, this will mean buying the minerals and manufacturing the cathode material ourselves, something we will be alone in doing in the industry. We will also have a battery recycling facility, which is of course important for the environment.”
Construction of Northvolt One began in October 2019, and operations are scheduled to begin in 2021. The plant will use hydro-electric power and have an initial annual capacity of 8 gigawatt hours. This will then be increased in stages to 40 gigawatt hours.
Several reasons to choose Skellefteå
So why has Northvolt chosen to build its first major plant (there is already an R&D facility in Västerås) in Skellefteå, where 2,700 new jobs will be created; the availability of renewable energy is one explanation, but surely there are more?
“There’s an abundance of minerals in northern Scandinavia and logistics routes are efficient,” says Mikael Thorslund. “What’s more, we’ve received great support from Skellefteå municipality and its entire surrounding area. This was, and remains, extremely important.”
Northvolt is targeting a number of different market segments, where road vehicles constitute the largest. It is also developing grid solutions for energy storage, batteries for non-road industrial applications and finally batteries for power tools. Batteries for industry include use within materials handling, construction & infrastructure, mining, rail, aviation and various maritime applications.
Planning for marine applications
“We aim to be a key player when maritime transport has to reduce its carbon footprint,” says Mikael Thorslund. “By adding electricity to the mix, it would be possible to use battery power for virtually all short-distance transport such as ferry lines. As far as long-distance transport is concerned, it’s not yet possible to store enough electricity in batteries, but there is naturally always the possibility of hybrid solutions.”
Northvolt is holding discussions in its search for marine battery solutions that allow both pure electric and hybrid solutions.
“Thanks to electric power, we can get a long way toward more sustainable transport, even at sea,” says Mikael Thorslund.
Municipal Commissioner: “It’s like finding gold again in Boliden”
Establishing the Northvolt factory in Skellefteå means lots of new jobs. Lorents Burman (S), Chairman of the municipal board, sees a bright future for both the surrounding area and Northvolt.
“The switch to battery operation is a big deal for the entire European transport sector, and it’s awesome that Skellefteå can be part of it. I like to look back to 1924 when gold was found outside Boliden. And now, almost 100 years later, what’s happening may be equally significant for Skellefteå and the region. We’re writing a completely new chapter in our industrial history.”
“The construction and operation of the Northvolt plant means lots of new jobs, and the project will bring with it many other new business set-ups. Ever since the municipality was told what Northvolt was planning, we made clear we would do everything we could to help things along.”
“This included reviewing the electricity supply and infrastructure, drawing up a detailed plan at record speed and preparing the site where the plant is now under construction. We recognized how important low risk was for Northvolt prior to setting up, and we did everything we could to find a good arrangement. It feels great now that it’s all bearing fruit.”