Volvo Cars and Northvolt have recently received the green light in court for their battery factory project in Gothenburg, which is set to be the city’s first-ever gigafactory as well.

Swedish battery expert Bo Normark said in an interview that the EU, including Sweden, has been addressing the scarcity of battery raw materials. One trend is reshoring – focusing on battery production back to the region to ensure a sustainable supply chain.

The joint battery factory will be pivotal in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for Volvo Cars’ electric vehicles. The construction is slated to begin later this year. It is expected to be completed by 2026.

Christian Jebsen, the communications manager at Novo Energy, expressed his enthusiasm for this move.

“It is a huge investment for both Northvolt and Volvo Cars and for the entire region,” said Jebsen.

Novo Energy’s CEO, Adrian Clarke, also hailed this development as a major milestone for green batteries.

The joint investment by Volvo Cars and Northvolt also promises significant economic growth. The factory is expected to initially employ up to 200 workers and eventually expand to accommodate a workforce of 3,000 individuals.

The upcoming battery factory aims to produce batteries with a total capacity of 50 gigawatt hours per year, equivalent to powering half a million electric cars.

Volvo’s Torslanda factory will also undergo a transformation to focus on electric car production, involving an investment of SEK 10 billion.

Promising Battery Alternative in Sodium-ion Technology

In addition to lithium-ion manufacturing in Gothenburg, Northvolt has also made investments in Altris, a company specializing in batteries based on sodium-ion technology based in Uppsala.

Altris recently introduced a cathode material known as pure Prussian White. With an impressive capacity of 160 mAh/g, it stands as the most significant capacity announced thus far.

This achievement represents a crucial step in Altris’ path towards commercialization, as the capacity of cathode materials plays a vital role in enhancing the energy density and broader adoption of sodium-ion batteries.

Moving away from fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy demands a high number of batteries. However, there aren’t enough materials for lithium-ion batteries to make this switch in time.

Normark pointed out that sodium batteries could potentially serve as an alternative to lithium batteries. Sodium batteries utilize sodium, an element found in salt, as an energy storage material. They are expected to offer lower costs and energy density compared to lithium-ion batteries.

In the long term, the price of sodium batteries could be significantly reduced, potentially becoming five times cheaper than current batteries. Normark suggested that the cost could eventually be as low as $25 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

He also emphasized the underestimated potential of stationary batteries. Although they are already profitable in numerous applications, he believes that new chemistries like sodium batteries will make renewable electricity production combined with batteries an unbeatable combination in the long term.

To mitigate the raw materials shortage, Sweden has also initiated graphite trial mining in Norrbotten, aiming to establish a facility for anode manufacturing in Luleå. The anode accounts for 40-50 percent of the active material within a vehicle’s battery.

In 2024, the plant in Luleå is set to commence operations, with the capability to produce 19,500 tons of refined anode material annually. This quantity is sufficient to cater to the needs of approximately 400,000 electric vehicles each year.

Another trial mining project is underway in Vittangi, which holds one of the world’s largest graphite deposits.

Regardless of the battery technology used, the demand for batteries remains high. Normark personally holds great confidence in the future of sodium batteries.

“Where battery technology will be in five to ten years is impossible to say, but it is not impossible that we will have sodium batteries in cars as well,” he said.

Normark has long been a prominent advocate for both the country’s battery industry and European green technology. He also played a role in the early stages of Northvolt.

Normark’s expertise in electric power technology and battery systems has earned him esteemed recognition in the field.

Advancing EV Adoption on Charging Infrastructure

Besides promoting sustainable energy practices through battery manufacturing, the EU is actively working on improving the charging infrastructure to accelerate EV adoption.

The EU is further advocating for an increase in the frequency of fast chargers and improved payment methods. The goal is to establish a user-friendly network of charging stations that enables convenient access to fast charging throughout member countries.

Sweden, along with other countries, is set to witness significant developments in this regard. By no later than 2026, the country will install charging stations along its roads within the TEN-T core network at intervals of six miles.

These stations will boast a combined output of at least 400 kW. Sweden also has plans to increase the output to 600 kW by 2028.

After a year of meticulous planning and navigating through bureaucratic processes, the proposal for an enhanced EV charging network finally received approval from the European Parliament on July 12. This decision marks a pivotal moment in the EU’s commitment to fostering sustainable transportation solutions.

In Sweden, the focus primarily lies on key routes like the E6, which stretches from Malmö to Oslo along the west coast. Another route is the E4, connecting Malmö to Stockholm and extending further to Luleå. These routes also connect to Oulu in Finland and Narvik in Norway, making them crucial links in the envisioned EV charging network.

Additionally, the EU has outlined requirements for electric trucks and buses. By 2028, half of the “major roads” within the EU must have a corresponding charging network every 12 miles.

This network will cover not only routes frequented by passenger cars but also other vital transportation arteries. Charging stations along these routes must deliver a minimum output of 1400 and 2800 kW per station, depending on the specific route.

Parliament’s rapporteur for alternative fuels, Petar Vitanov, highlights the importance of sustainable energy solutions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, enhancing citizens’ well-being and creating new employment opportunities.

Vitanov believes these new regulations will facilitate the expansion of charging infrastructure while ensuring its usability and convenience, akin to traditional gas stations.

To further streamline the charging experience, the EU has mandated easier payment options. EV owners must be able to pay at all charging points using payment cards or contactless devices without needing a subscription.

Additionally, charging prices should be clearly displayed, indicating the cost per kilowatt hour, minute or charging session.