We interviewed Johan Söderbom, Thematic Leader Smartgrid and Storage at Innoenergy.

What are the major challenges battery technologies face in the coming 5 to 10 years?

We have a very interesting situation, because we have, in a very short time in Europe, managed to actually establish ourselves as a very important or good area for cell manufacturing.

We have 45 different projects that are aiming to produce somewhere around thousand GWh a year by 2030. I think we have learnt very well how to set up this factories -some of them already are opened and operating-, so we know how to do that to some extent at least. However, since our competing edge in Europe really is that we are producing green batteries, we are using renewable energy, we want to source raw materials which are all green… That’s really one of the challenges we have. So, if we want to compete in that side, we also need to be able to have raw materials, and that is really one of the big challenges that we have.

Then, we have other challenges which are more technical, which would be new chemistries that we want to get into the system. But I am not so worried about that because we have an extremely good research and development community in Europe.

What will be the major breakthroughs expected in the battery industry in the coming years?

Breakthrough would be to make sure that, first of all, from the beginning, we ensure that we have a circular economy. So, all the batteries that are actually being put on the market they’re going to stay there in different forms; either as a second-use battery, but after that, of course, as recycling the material, so it doesn’t leak out of Europe, or leaking through some sort of waste management. We need to be able to make sure that we can use the battery minerals over and over…

Another thing is that we have to probably change the attitude in Europe; we need to be able to excavate and exploit the raw materials, the resources that we actually have here. We have opportunitites for lithium, we have opportunities for manganese and so on, but we are not using today… But that’s not justa a technical issue, that’s a political, that’s an environmental aspect, and so on. So that needs to be taken into account.

How do you see Europe positioned in the battery industry compared to other continents?

If we look at the last 5 years, then we are seeing a massive commitment and policy engagement in Europe. We are, of course, behind China and some Asian countries, but the market that attracted most investment during the last 5 years, that’s definitely Europe. And the reason for that is that we have both from policy makers as well as politicians, both on European level as in member states, we have taken decisions towards electrification of the transport sector.

But, I think most important is actually, that most of the OEMs, the vehicle manufacturers in Europe have also decided to go that way, which means that they have changed their production, capacity, facilities… So, you don’t back down from that, which means OEMs today have more aggressive plans than what European Commission have.

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