19 February 2021
As battery-electric vehicles (BEV) move from the realms of alternative fuel to mainstream automotive technology, the supply chain for the critical component, the battery, needs to be shortened.
Currently, the industry relies on shipments from Asia. To maintain efficiency and reliability of supply as the production of BEVs increases within Europe, a closer network of gigafactories is required. In recent days, announcements suggest efforts are being made to establish a European supply network, saving the industry from potential issues, as seen with the recent semiconductor shortage.
A new company, Italvolt, will establish a gigafactory in Italy, with the first phase of the project scheduled for completion by 2024. Lars Carlstrom, former founder and shareholder of the Britishvolt project created the new company.
Italvolt states that its factory will employ around 4,000 people and be the largest in Europe, with an initial capacity of 45GWh, increasing to 70GWh. The 300,000m2 facility will be built in a yet-to-be-determined location in the country, with investment projected at €4 billion.
‘With the gigafactory project, Italvolt wants to give an important answer to the historic opportunity of green industrialisation, which is affecting all production sectors in a transversal way, representing a turning point for the global economy,’ commented Carlstrom.
The company states that demand for batteries in Europe, primarily driven by the automotive market, will hit 565GWh by 2030, behind only China, with an expected demand of 1,548GWh. Locating its factory in Italy gives it access to another market area, with carmakers such as Stellantis manufacturing in the country.
Following Brexit uncertainty, the UK has seen a swathe of announcements in recent months that have boosted the country’s automotive industry. Vehicle electrification is driving these investments, with the aforementioned Britishvolt project and news that Nissan will bring battery manufacturing to the country.
There could now be a third project that would see a gigafactory developed in Coventry, with the city’s council entering a partnership with the owners of Coventry Airport.
The joint venture partners will develop proposals and submit an outline planning application for a gigafactory in 2021. This will take place alongside regional discussions with battery suppliers and automotive manufacturers to secure the long-term investment.
The UK's West Midlands area is home to several carmakers, including Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), BMW, and LEVC and Aston Martin Lagonda. The UK government has made up to £500 million (€577 million) available for investment in a battery-manufacturing facility, and the area will be tendering a bid for funding from this pool.
‘Coventry has emerged as a world leader in battery technology,’ said George Duggins, Coventry City Council leader. ‘The city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, world-leading research institutions, and the UK’s largest carmaker, JLR, and it is clear to me that Coventry is the right location.
‘Coventry Airport sits at the heart of this powerful automotive research cluster and is the obvious location for a UK gigafactory. It will immediately plug in to a mature automotive supply chain and skills eco-system.’
The plans will have been boosted by news that JLR is to transition its Jaguar brand to a BEV-only marque by 2025, while Land Rover will launch six new battery models, with manufacturing centred in the UK. A supply of batteries on their doorstep would make sense, cutting delivery times and improving the carbon footprint of their BEVs with reduced shipping.