VW Will Develop Its Own Battery Tech in a New Laboratory
This week Volkswagen Group Components opened a new battery research laboratory in Salzgitter, Germany, which will be responsible for material testing, series monitoring, release testing and quality assurance of cells used in electric car batteries. The automaker’s new lab, or competence center, will be one of the facilities that will work to develop and mass-produce the next generation of batteries that will be used by the VW Group brands, with the Volkswagen unified cell due in 2025. Earlier this year VW launched a pilot plant for battery recycling at the same site.
Dubbed the Center of Excellence (CoE) Battery Cell, the site will employ over 1000 employees by late 2022, with 160 or so currently working on cell design. The laboratories will allow for extensive cell testing programs, with VW using 200 different analytical methods, as well as one of the few electron scanning microscopes in the world for detecting lithium.
The laboratories that make up this new complex are split up into four area categories. The cell development lab examines new materials for suitability, after which they can be sent directly to the pilot line next door for production on a small scale. The second laboratory is the analytics lab, where researchers disassemble components for competitive analyses and quality testing. The third is the environmental and safety facility, where battery cells undergo endurance tests in special chambers that test them for thermal, electrical, or mechanical stresses. The fourth is the electrical test field, where cells of all types are tested for long-term reliability.
“With the new, state-of-the-art laboratories, we are further expanding our development, process and production expertise for the battery cell—the heart of the battery electric vehicle. Volkswagen’s Salzgitter site demonstrates how the transformation of the German automotive industry from conventional drive systems to e-mobility can succeed. We are attracting cutting-edge researchers and, as a pioneer in the industry, create the jobs of tomorrow,” says Thomas Schmall, chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Group Components.
The move is an important one for the brands in the VW Group, most of which have now launched electric vehicles of their own, as it allows the automaker to rely on itself for battery development and production instead of relying on suppliers for development and production. Salzgitter will also be one of the three main battery-producing sites for VW Group that will be part of a controlled battery supply chain that will run from raw materials to battery recycling. The automaker plans to operate a total of six gigafactories by 2030, with the first three locations already determined: One will be run by Northvolt AB in Skellefteå, Sweden, starting in 2023. The second gigafactory will be in Salzgitter, and will come online in 2025. The third one will be in Spain.
“With the opening of the laboratories, we have reached the next strategic milestone. Now we are pushing ahead with preparations for our own cell production with all our strength,” Schmall added. The new unified cell for the volume segment is scheduled to roll off the production line at the gigafactory in Salzgitter from 2025. By 2030, the Volkswagen Group plans to operate six cell factories in Europe together with partners with a production capacity of 240 GWh. Prospectively, cells with an annual capacity of 40 GWh will be produced in Salzgitter. The new unified cell is expected to unlock synergies and reduce battery costs by up to 50 percent.”
VW’s launch of its own battery research and production site mirrors the actions of several other automakers that have recently made similar plans, seeking to move away from a heavier reliance on suppliers. This summer Ford has announced plans for its Ion Park in Romulus, Michigan, to develop and build battery cells for its own vehicles.
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