A mock up of Northvolt's upcoming gigafactory in Sweden Credit: Northvolt.

Batteries are hot property. The green transition relies on them: both for storing renewable energy and powering electric vehicles. 

That’s got countries and continents vying to shore up their battery supply chains. At present, Europe’s pretty behind in that race. China currently has an annual battery production capacity of 465 GWh, 78% of the total, with Europe and the US making up another 18% together.

There are a whole host of companies working on scaling up manufacturing in Europe, given that the European Commission estimates that the EU will need 400 GWh of battery capacity by 2025. There are venture capital-backed startups, like Northvolt, Verkor and Freyr, as well as established car companies, like Volkswagen and Nissan.

And Europe does have a lot of battery expertise to fall back on though, thanks to battery producers like Saft, Varta and Leclanché.

Non-European companies are also working on projects across the continent, including Tesla, which is building a gigafactory in Berlin, and LG Chem, the Korean chemical company, which has a site in Poland. A gigafactory is a facility which produces batteries on a large scale.

Sifted is tracking 33 gigafactories in Europe. By the end of 2022, seven of them are projected to be up and running. The largest are LG Chem’s Polish site, which is targeting 32 GWh of capacity, and Samsung’s site in Hungary, which is targeting 20 GWh by the end of this year. 

Northvolt, Europe’s best-funded gigafactory startup, has an active site in northern Sweden, which began shipments of batteries in May this year. The company has said it will ramp up capacity to 60 GWh. It’s also working on a second gigafactory in Germany. 

European companies are behind 19 of the gigafactories being built across the continent.  

There are also European companies building gigafactories outside of Europe. Norwegian company Morrow is working on a factory in India, in conjunction with US energy firm Midwest Energy.

Teething problems

Despite the European Commission’s projection — that the EU can supply 90% of required capacity by 2025 — several projects have reported hiccups this year. 

Britishvolt, which is building a gigafactory in the northeast of England, was reportedly on “life support” and had to cut spending, according to leaked documents seen by The Guardian. The planned production start date has been pushed back from 2023 to 2025, according to the former CEO.

It’s also been reported that a planned gigafactory run by Chinese company Farasis Energy and automotive group Daimler has been substantially delayed.

If the planned projects do make it to fruition, market data provider Benchmark Minerals is projecting that they’ll result in Europe having an annual capacity of 789 GWh by 2030. 

Freya Pratty is a reporter at Sifted. She tweets from @FPratty and writes our climate tech newsletter you can sign up here

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