Northvolt: $4 billion electric-car battery plant planned for Sweden by former Tesla execs


Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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Tesla is currently ramping up lithium-ion battery cell production at its U.S. "Gigafactory" near Reno, Nevada.

But the automaker has discussed plans for at least one additional Gigafactory, presumably to meet demand for battery cells related to large-scale electric-car production outside the U.S.

While Tesla continues to mull that second battery factory, two of its former executives are planning one of their own.

DON'T MISS: Tesla starts cell production at Gigafactory, shows it off to investors

Swedish startup Northvolt plans to build a $4 billion battery plant in a Nordic country, according to the Financial Times (subscription required).

The company was founded by Peter Carlsson, a former Tesla supply-chain boss who also serves as CEO of Northvolt. The company's COO is another former Tesla executive, Paolo Cerruti.

Northvolt—formerly known as SGF Energy—aims to start manufacturing lithium-ion batteries by 2020, and hopes to produce 32 gigawatt-hours of cells by 2023.

Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno

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If completed, Northvolt's factory would be the first and largest European attempt to rival the Asian firms that currently dominate lithium-ion battery manufacturing for electric cars.

"If nobody does anything, Europe is going to be completely dependent on an Asian supply chain," Carlsson told the Financial Times, adding that "it's now or never."

As electric-car sales grow, the concentration of battery-manufacturing infrastructure in Asia has also worried policymakers in Germany.

ALSO SEE: German government worries carmakers vulnerable to electric-car onslaught (Dec 2016)

An internal report from the German economics ministry published late last year warned that the country's large auto industry was falling behind in the manufacture of electric-car components such as battery packs.

That poses a risk of "lasting dependence on Asian manufacturing" for these components, the report said.

Northvolt is particularly interested in building its battery plant in Sweden, but has also shown interest in Finland due to the country's large lithium deposits.

Nissan prototype 60-kWh battery pack - Nissan Technical Center, October 2015

Nissan prototype 60-kWh battery pack - Nissan Technical Center, October 2015

Enlarge Photo

In fact, the Finnish city of Vaasa made a direct pitch to Tesla last year for a future gigafactory, based on its location near the largest of those deposits, in Kaustinen.

Finland is also home to large deposits of cobalt, which is used in lithium-ion batteries but has become more difficult to acquire lately due to hedge funds buying up stocks.

CHECK OUT: Why one Finnish city thinks it's ideal for next Tesla Gigafactory (Dec 2016)

In addition to raw materials, Northvolt hopes to position its factory near renewable-energy sources.

Northvolt's executives did not detail any plans to supply batteries for electric cars, but they don't anticipate competing with their former employer.

Tesla only produces lithium-ion cells and battery packs for its own use, believing large-scale, in-house lithium-ion production is necessary to meet its ambitious electric-car sales goals.

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