VWS view on battery raw material cycle & conversion of the energy industry

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VWS view on battery raw material cycle & conversion of the energy industry-cycle

Thomas Schmall, since the beginning of the year of the new technical board of the Volkswagen Group, talked to the Wirtschaftswoche on how he wants to lead the world’s largest automaker into the purely electrical age and about the challenges that are accompanied by: sustainable and self-produced batteries, new partnerships and the conversion of the energy industry.

“The battery is the core of the E-car, and the E-car is the vehicle of the future,” says Schmall at the beginning of the interview. It should be obvious that VW has decided to produce battery cells themselves: “Now the Claims will be staked for the next 30 years value creation in our industry – and we would like to be there,” says the manager. In the decision for its own cell production, several factors have been incorporated, technical and market economy. For example, the independence of suppliers and a secure supply of sufficient batteries. The main drive was that VW wanted to master “the technological core” of his future products themselves.

What Volkswagen already makes is to be assembled in Braunschweig battery packs for its E-cars based on the MEB platform. But still with externally purchased cells “of several technically leading suppliers”, how grinding emphasizes. This “battery system production” was “the logical first step”. Now Volkswagen “Peu a peu go on the cell, which is technically and financially a different challenge”.

In this case, Salzgitter as a test laboratory plays the main role, where VW tests the cells of other manufacturers and their own developments “down to the atomic level”: “We see, for example, how the structure of the electrodes, the anode and the cathode is accurately constructed. Where is used in the cathode how much cobalt, nickel or silicon in the anode? In which structures? How new chemical compositions change the fast shop, the service life, the power density? We go from the little one to the big, “explains Schmall.

“The goal is a closed cycle with more than 90 percent recovery of all valuable raw materials”

Also his research factory has drove up VW mid September. There the Group tests “whether and how the new, better cells can be put into industrial mass production”. The manufacturer already think of the recycling of the cells, which should also be done in Salzgitter. The goal is “a closed cycle with more than 90 percent recovery of all valuable raw materials”. By 2025 Volkswagen then wants to open his first own cell factory in Salzgitter his first own cell factory. Already two years earlier, the production of the battery partner Northvolt, where VW is involved, start at its location in Sweden.

In Salzgitter, VW wants to produce total capacity in the first expansion stage with 20 gigawatt hours. The second expansion stage also provides 20 gigawatt hours. The a total of 40 gigawatt hours of annual production capacity “are then sufficient for about 700.000 medium pure e-cars, “How Schmall explains. Since this is not enough to cover the complete future demand of the VW Group of battery cells, the manufacturer wants to “also buy cells” in the coming years “and build more cell factories in Europe together with partners.

Overall, six of these gigafactories are planned in Europe alone. Because by 2030, 60 percent of all sell vehicles should be pure E cars. “This corresponds to an annual e-auto production in the middle single-digit million area,” says Schmall, and there are good 240 gigawatt hours of battery cells per year. In addition to the already concrete planned or planned. The group “a third battery cell production in Spain”, where the VW brands Seat and Cupra have their homeland, in the construction of “a third battery cell production in Spain”. For the other three factories search VW still locations, including in Eastern Europe.

For these immense production capacities, a secure supply of battery stocks is necessary. Also, VW already thinks: “We strive for a wide network of sources of supply and must also enter the commodity business,” explains the technical board. In doing so, VW “the entire process chain, from the mine to recycling”. Even technological innovations and advances that VW are closely monitoring: “New cell chemicals such as cobalt-free lithium-iron phosphate – LFP – or particularly manganese cathodes will bring relief to raw materials,” says Schmall. If necessary, production can be switched to other cell chemicals.

“It would be very surprising if the energy industry would not take this historical chance”

For the coming years, Schmall says “with high probability many new partnerships in the battery and charging infrastructure”. “Understanding unusual constellations with partners from outside the battery and auto industry,” says the manager, for example with energy suppliers, which depend on “favorable batteries” for the buffer storage of renewable energies. E-cars as a store would be ideal for offset the fluctuating generation of wind and solar energy.

“It would be very surprising if the energy industry would not take this historical chance,” says Schmall about the vehicle-to-grid called technology, like V2G abbreviated. “We could offer our fleet as moving or parked stores,” says Schmall. E cars can store “7-10 times their average daily driving power requirements”. Customers could benefit financially, either with cheap charging current or direct compensation. First pilot tests see a potential of just over 700 to 1000 euros per year, with a regular provision of only one handful of kilowatt hours to capacity. How that is implemented in the end will show: “There is a scope for a lot of sustainable business models,” says Schmall.
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