2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
The VW Group started producing battery cells for electric cars on Monday. Pilot production for small series began at the Salzgitter plant.
Initially, further experience should be gained in this way - but the project could also be the basis for large-scale cell production. More than one billion euros will be invested in Salzgitter by the turn of the year 2023/24. Then a cell factory built with the Swedish partner Northvolt will also go into operation.
In the medium term, more than 1000 jobs are to be created in Salzgitter - 300 in the development center that has now been opened, and another 700 in the joint venture with Northvolt. The cell factory will be built from next year, it is designed for the order of 16 gigawatt hours (GWh).
Battery cells initially for prototypes
“By bundling the competencies at the location, we ensure that we can drive the further development of battery cells as a key component of electrification ourselves and quickly transfer them to series production,” said VW Board Member for Procurement Stefan Sommer.
In the first stage, I am dealing with a pure pilot plant, the cells of which are intended for prototypes. The capacity is initially below one GWh, in the long term the aim is 150 GWh across the group. Up until now, producing their own cells was too expensive for German car manufacturers; they bought the components from suppliers mainly in Asia.
In Salzgitter, around 300 employees try out new manufacturing processes for lithium-ion batteries. For this, the group is initially investing 100 million euros in the location. The majority of the current 8,000 employees in the plant are employed in the production of internal combustion engines. How many of them "can be transformed by starting up the battery cell" is not yet clear, explained Sommer. "We will try." A third of the employees in the pilot production already come from our own workforce.
Prices below market level
According to works council chairman Bernd Osterloh, own production of the cells is already competitive. “The prices are partly below the level of the market.” Osterloh pointed out that the pilot production had long been controversial within the group: “We mustn't forget who paved the way.” Since 2010, the employee representatives have been calling for their own cell factory.
Lower Saxony's Minister of Economic Affairs Bernd Althusmann (CDU) said the start of the pilot line was "an important signal for the world's largest automobile manufacturer". However, he also made it clear: The Volkswagen employees should be “taken along”. Because overall less work is required for e-mobility than for the construction of combustion engines, many classic jobs in the industry are likely to disappear, while jobs are being created in new areas. Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) stated: "With the decision in favor of Salzgitter, the foundation stone is laid for modern battery cell production in our home region."
In its unit for intra-group supplies such as engines, transmissions or steering systems, VW has now set up a separate business area for battery cells. Wolfsburg and Northvolt each hold half of the shares in the joint venture for the planned plant construction in Salzgitter. Volkswagen is investing 900 million euros in the joint venture and in Northvolt itself.
A research facility for battery recycling is also part of the cooperation. It should start work in 2020. (dpa)