Archives for Li-ion

A glimpse into Northvolt’s R&D facility

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.

European backing for Northvolt’s battery gigafactory in Sweden

  • In-principle approval of the European Investment Bank to support Northvolts gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells in Skellefteå, Sweden
  • Pending finalization of due diligence and negotiations, the EIB’s financing commitment is foreseen to be EUR 350 million

 

The European Investment Bank has given its in-principle agreement to support the financing of Europe’s first home-grown gigafactory for lithium-ion battery cells, Northvolt Ett, in Sweden. Upon conclusion of a loan agreement, the financing would be supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

 

The gigafactory will be established in Skellefteå in northern Sweden – a region home to a prominent raw material and mining cluster which has a long history of process manufacturing and recycling. Noting the region’s clean power base, building the factory in northern Sweden will enable Northvolt to utilize 100% renewable energy within its production processes.

 

EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell noted: “The development of a competitive and green battery value chain within Europe can not only cut greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonizing power generation and transport, but can also help protect millions of well paid jobs in European industries in the face of increasing global competition. The EUR 350 million loan to Northvolt approved in-principle today by our Board of Directors is the largest ever direct EIB financing approval for battery technology, and we look forward to working with Northvolt over the coming months to finalize contracts.”

 

Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, said: “The EIB and the Commission are strategic partners under the EU Battery Alliance. I welcome the significant support proposed by the EIB to Northvolt gigafactory as a stepping-stone towards building a competitive, sustainable and innovative value chain, with battery cells manufactured at scale, here, in Europe. Our two institutions are working closely with the industry and key Member States to put the EU on a firm path towards global leadership in this rapidly expanding sector.”

 

Northvolt Ett will serve as Northvolt’s primary production site, hosting active material preparation, cell assembly, recycling and auxiliaries. The construction of the first quarter of the factory will be completed in 2020. Ramping up to full capacity, Northvolt Ett will produce 32 GWh of battery capacity per year.

 

“This EIB in principle approval is a key moment in the process of finalizing our capital raise to support the establishment of Northvolt Ett. Today, we are one step closer to our goal of building the greenest batteries in the world and enabling the European transition to a decarbonized future,” said Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt.

 

The capital raise, in which this EIB loan would be included, will finance the establishment of the first 16 GWh of battery capacity production. The batteries from Northvolt Ett are targeted for use in automotive, grid storage, and industrial and portable applications.

 

“Today’s decision by the EIB is very gratifying and a big step towards a large-scale battery production in the EU and a fossil free welfare society. The decision shows that there are prerequisites in Sweden for sustainable battery production, it is important for Sweden and the rest of the EU to produce battery materials and battery cells, based on green, Swedish electricity,” said Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation.

 

Background Information

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union, owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. In 2018 alone, the Bank made available a record EUR 1.37 billion in loans for Swedish projects in various sectors, including research & development, industry, nearly-zero-energy-buildings and telecommunications.

 

The EIB is the European Union’s bank; the only bank owned by and representing the interests of the European Union Member States. It works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy and is the world’s largest multilateral borrower and lender. The EIB provides finance and expertise for sustainable investment projects that contribute to EU policy objectives. More than 90% of its activity is in Europe.

 

Northvolt was founded in 2016 with the mission to build the world’s greenest battery cell, with a minimal carbon footprint and the highest ambitions for recycling, to enable the European transition to renewable energy. Northvolt’s team of experts is building the next generation battery cell factory focused on process innovation, scale and vertical integration. Once completed, it will be one of Europe’s largest battery cell factories and produce 32 GWh worth of capacity annually.

 

The Investment Plan for Europe, known as the Juncker Plan, is one of the European Commission’s top priorities. It focuses on boosting investment to generate jobs and growth by making smarter use of new and existing financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects.

 

The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is the main pillar of the Juncker Plan and provides first loss guarantees, enabling the EIB to invest in more projects that often come with greater risks. EFSI has already yielded tangible results. The projects and agreements approved for financing under EFSI are expected to mobilise almost EUR 393 billion in investments and support 945.000 SMEs in the 28 Member States. More information on the results of the Investment Plan for Europe is available here.

Introducing Voltrack: modular stationary energy storage from Northvolt

Development of Northvolt’s stationary energy storage system, Voltrack Generation 1, enters a new phase as the first unit is shipped from its manufacturing facility.

The event represents a milestone for Northvolt and comes as the energy industry becomes increasingly aware of the transformative potential that stationary storage will have for global energy markets in enabling the time-shifting of renewable power from point of generation to point of use.

 

Leveraging Northvolt’s experience of developing battery modules for industrial vehicle applications and assembled at Northvolt Battery Systems in Gdansk, Poland, Voltrack is a liquid-cooled Li-ion battery system built for demanding industrial energy storage applications.

 

Voltrack contains sixteen battery modules together delivering a peak power output up to 170 kW, continuous power output up to 140 kW and a usable energy capacity of 175 kWh. A standalone solution, Voltrack features self-contained cooling and energy management systems. However, multiple Voltrack systems may be linked to meet the energy storage needs of customers operating at utility, commercial or industrial scales.

 

As validation continues, Northvolt is also working towards the development of several other Voltrack variants, including ones featuring alternate cooling systems.

 

 

Amidst the landscape of new energy there exists a wide range of settings within which Voltrack will be ideally suited to deliver the benefits of energy storage.

 

The electricity grid itself is the prime example. Here, utility-scale battery storage is already proving itself the ideal solution to serve multiple roles. Key use-cases include, short duration storage, energy time-shifting and peaking capacity, frequency regulation and many more ancillary functions which support grid stability and enable greater use of renewables.

 

In commercial and industrial settings, battery storage brings other benefits. For instance, allowing for control over when electricity is drawn from the grid, battery storage opens up a route to avoiding peak charges. Moreover, if coupled with solar PV systems, storage allows for greater use of self-generated electricity together with the means to more fully engage in new and emerging practices disrupting the conventional energy system, such as participation in emerging microgrid electricity markets. On-site battery storage also provides the assurance of reliable backup power.

 

Although deployment of stationary energy storage has been modest to date, industry forecasters are united in expectation of a dramatic uptake in energy storage from 2020 onwards.

 

A recent report from energy analysis firm, Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables, provides perspective on this shifting landscape (Global Energy Storage Outlook 2019), noting that global energy storage deployments held compound annual growth rate of 74% between 2013-2018. Year-on-year growth from 2017 to 2018 was 140%, resulting in installed capacity reaching 6 GWh by the end of 2018.

 

The analysts forecast the global energy storage market growing to 158 GWh in 2024, with deployment on the grid (known as front-of-meter) to support electricity networks remaining the largest end-use.

 

The dominant force behind ESS deployment is undoubtedly fallings costs of batteries. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) — a benchmark metric for the cost of a technology delivering electricity over its lifespan — for Li-ion battery storage has become increasingly competitive.

 

BNEF’s recent analysis of over 7,000 projects worldwide revealed that Li-ion battery LCOE has fallen 35% to $187 per MWh since the first half of 2018 (BNEF).

 

An implication of the trend is that Li-ion based energy storage, and the business cases it enables, is an increasingly viable commercial option compared with earlier years in which its deployment was constrained on economic grounds.

 

BNEF reports: “Batteries co-located with solar or wind projects are starting to compete, in many markets and without subsidy, with coal- and gas-fired generation for the provision of ‘dispatchable power’ that can be delivered whenever the grid needs it (as opposed to only when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining).”