One hundred kilometers west of Stockholm, in the forested suburbs of Västerås, you find Northvolt R&D – the cutting edge of Northvolt.
Developed for exploring battery technologies and manufacturing techniques, and cell design concept validation, the cell output of the R&D facility is modest compared to the Li-ion gigafactory that Northvolt is developing in Skellefteå – but the facility is nevertheless a key component in the Northvolt’s strategy.
Outfitted with all the capacities necessary for Northvolt to develop, produce and validate Li-ion cells, the facility features a clean room for cell manufacturing and several laboratories for material and cell research and validation.
The fully operational Northvolt R&D should not be confused with Northvolt Labs – a much larger manufacturing facility located just a few hundred meters away from R&D.
The clean room of Northvolt R&D contains active material production, electrode production, pouch and prismatic cell assembly lines as well as equipment for cell inspection.
A good amount of effort at Northvolt R&D is focused on work with small pouch cells – sample cells which are ideal for investigating results of methodical adjustment to fabrication techniques. Because of their size, using these cells enables us to test performance of active materials (found in anodes and cathodes) and other cell components in an efficient manner, whilst minimizing waste. Outcomes of research with small pouch cells then translates into development of full-scale prismatic cells.
Prismatic cells are considerably larger than the pouch cells and can be built to varying dimensions. Ultimately it is these, alongside cylindrical cells, which Northvolt will deliver to market via their integration into a variety of battery systems. Northvolt’s very first prismatic cell was produced at Northvolt R&D in March, but many hundreds more will be delivered before the end of the year.
Opposite the clean room are laboratories in which Northvolt engineers are involved in every aspect of Li-ion cell research and validation. Substances including raw materials, active materials produced in the clean room and much more, can be inspected at incredibly high resolutions (below the nanometer levels with some machines) to check for purity, consistency, material properties and quality.
The value of the research and other capabilities enabled by Northvolt R&D is clear as we consider its role in laying down the foundations for what will become Northvolt’s core cell technologies.
Manufacture of full-scale prismatic cell samples, for instance, is an especially critical step for Northvolt in order to validate cell design concepts. This work includes design and validation of cells for customers which include several automobile manufacturers requiring cells tailored to specific electric vehicle performance requirements.
Solutions for the shift to a decarbonized energy system can, at times, appear quite clear. Wind power, solar PV, and electric vehicles for instance. However, it is very much the case that tremendous amounts of work and ingenuity, across many industries, must be directed towards refining and delivering these solutions. Northvolt is playing its part in this exciting revolution and right now Northvolt R&D stands at the very forefront of this effort.
Every day, researchers at Northvolt R&D are pushing forward the boundaries of Li-ion battery technology with solutions which will power the vehicles, machinery and energy systems of tomorrow.