German government devotes €1bn to battery cell production

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At the Networking Conference Electromobility 2018 in Berlin yesterday, the German Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier, unveiled the first details of his plans to help Europe – via Germany – construct gigawatt-sized battery cell production capacity in Berlin.

Mr. Altmaier said the German government is intending to support consortia willing to build big battery cell production lines in Germany with a budget of €1 billion.

The Federal Ministry of Economics has published on its website a paper on industrial battery cell production in Germany and Europe, which was prepared by economic, scientific and political figures including European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

Mr. Altmaier said he is confident that by the end of next year, a first consortium to produce battery cells would be set up in Germany.

“The industry’s interest in participating … is becoming increasingly important, so … companies are currently examining and negotiating opportunities with newly-interested parties to participate in the consortium,” he said.

‘The best, not the cheapest’

The minister also said he is in talks with potential partners from France, Austria and Poland. “We have to produce state-of-the-art batteries in Europe,” he said, referring to competition in Asia and the U.S. It is clear Europe will not produce the cheapest batteries, he added, but it should make the most sustainable.

Mr. Altmaier said European batteries must be smart, have a high energy density and be easy to recycle. It is his goal that in 2030, 30% of the battery cells worldwide would come from Germany and Europe. “It is the government’s task to create the framework conditions for this, and to ensure market introduction,” he said. “But the companies have to invest. We have to think and act on a world scale.”

Battery cell production would bring a high level of added value and jobs to Germany, he said. And battery production could drive innovation in climate protection, technology and digitization.

Mr. Altmaier also announced the imminent launch of an “Industrial strategy 2030”.

The minister said environmental technologies are the basis for future prosperity, citing the fall in price in tenders for solar and wind. Germany is on course to emit less CO2 for the first time in years, due to its success in expanding renewables, and to favorable weather conditions in the summer.

Germany key in battery production

EU Commissioner for the Energy Union, Mr. Šefčovič, also took the stage in Berlin, and thanked Mr. Altmaier for his support in launching the “Green Battery Alliance” in Europe, to which 260 companies belong.

Mr. Šefčovič emphasized the need for battery cell plants across Europe, and also focused on sustainable batteries, recycling and a circular economy. He promised the EU would develop the appropriate framework conditions.

According to Mr. Šefčovič, the battery cell market in 2030 will have a global volume of €600-800 billion and Germany will play a key role in the development of battery cell production.

“We have to act very quickly and ambitiously,” said the EU Energy Commissioner, who referred to the recent IPCC report, with its alarming warnings about the effects of climate change, and which make decarbonizing the economy in Europe by 2050 vital.