Bo Normark of InnoEnergy and the European Battery Alliance spoke to Innovation News Network about how electrification of transport is vital to emissions reduction in the EU.
As Europe looks towards creating a greener future for energy consumption, governments need to tackle the infrastructure challenges and harness the use of renewables, including the electrification of transport. Utilising renewables will help to drive development and contribute to emissions reduction objectives, as well as modernising our cities.
One project spearheading the drive towards electric vehicles becoming the dominant mode of personal transport in Europe is the European Battery Alliance (EBA), a cooperative endeavour between 250 different companies, researchers and academics who have come together to develop a European battery value chain and help governments understand the efficacy of this market in helping to meet European objectives.
Bo Normark, thematic leader of Smart Grids and Electric Storage at InnoEnergy, spoke to Innovation News Network about the EBA’s objectives and how electrification of Europe’s transport system is a vital element of carbon emissions reduction, offering both economic and environmental benefits. InnoEnergy is driving the industrial development programme of the EBA known as EBA250.
What is the structure of the EBA and what are the aims and motivations of the EBA250 initiative?
The EBA initiative started in 2017 when we were asked by the European Commission to write a white paper about how Europe can become a leader in the electric battery field and how a battery ecosystem can be built in Europe.
One key point from the paper is that in order to be successful, Europe can not only think about building cell factories: it has to be active across the entire value chain, from raw materials to building active materials and cells, from applications to recycling and the second-life of batteries. The other key message is about scale – we have to evolve and build big factories as we cannot compete with small factories. This means we cannot wait for the next technologies. We have to trust that we can build now and develop our factories over time to cope with new technologies.
When the EBA was formed it was very small; there was only ten companies. Now it has gained traction: we have over 250 companies, research institutes and academia. We have had a number of meetings where we have identified actions that can be taken to support the development of a sustainable and competitive battery ecosystem.
The European Commission has mandated the European Investment Bank to set aside money to give loans to battery factories. It has presented a new initiative called Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI), whereby countries agree they will jointly develop industrial projects in the area of batteries. The IPCEI allows Member States to subsidise these investments. Germany, for instance, has set aside €1 billion so that projects can draw from these resources. France has also set aside €700 million and a number of countries and companies have declared that they will operate in building research factories.
How is the European battery industry going to grow in the coming years and what role will the EBA and the EBA250 initiative play in market development?
The industry is set to grow very fast – faster than the current predictions have laid out. Volkswagen for example has recently increased its projected electric vehicle sales by 50 per cent. A corner stone of the EBA is that we must see cooperation along the value chain between companies.
Currently, we are seeing a number of very interesting industrial collaborations making agreements with suppliers for cell producers, who have in turn made agreements with mining companies. We are also seeing cooperation in regard to recycling.
Unless we electrify, we have no chance of meeting the European emission targets for vehicles. Norway has already below the 2030 target, as they have high levels of electrification of transport and strong subsidies. In the next few years we will see increasingly affordable electric cars. European automakers have made up their mind – German makers have decided that the next generation of vehicles will be battery vehicles: not hybrid, but full electric.
How will the grid cope with the transition to full electrification of transport systems in the EU?
We have to differentiate between energy and power. In terms of energy, we will not have a problem because energy consumption for electric vehicles is relatively low. For example, in Sweden if we electrified 100 per cent of transport that would lead to an additional electricity consumption of around 10 per cent. In the next four years Sweden will increase the production of wind power to make up for that additional electric energy.
Regarding power, this is much trickier. Electric vehicles can be a pain, or they can be a gain. Because modern electric cars have such large batteries, it is only when driving on freeways that they will need to be charged along the road. Otherwise, they can be charged in homes or at workplaces. Tests are also taking place to see how we can use electric vehicles to support the grid by controlling the charging and discharging of Electric Vehicles.
High power chargers will need to be installed and Member States will likely need local storage to support the grid. There certainly are challenges, but there are technical solutions to these challenges.
What challenges will this market and the EBA face from external competition, legislation or infrastructure?
The EBA has contributed to changing the mentality in Europe – to make others realise we can build a healthy battery industry. Before the alliance many people – and companies – did not believe it was possible to make the move towards full electrification of transport, but today it is a different story. The EBA can compete in this market with a comprehensive action plan – initially we need to import skills and equipment. We also have to take care of our recycling schemes. It is rewarding to see that in such a short scale of time companies are cooperating across the value chain and that there is also a lot of engagement from the Commission and Member States.
How can the EBA work collaboratively to help develop the industry and meet clean energy objectives?
We have brought in people from the finance and industry sectors to show how attractive this market is; and we have also started a campaign to involve the Member States by bringing them onto the same page. This way we can feed opportunities and help Member States and industry to cooperate on a national level.
This will be rolled out in at least five more countries over the next five months. A lot of governments have not yet seen the magnitude of this industrial project, but we have local investors involved who say they have to speak more with their governments.
The EBA is on a mission to expand the electrification of our transport, power and industrial sector. This alliance is a beautiful example of what the European Union can achieve.
Thematic leader of Smart Grids and Electric Storage at InnoEnergy, European Battery Alliance
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