Volkswagen-backed battery storage specialist Northvolt has commissioned its gigafactory at Skellefteå in northern Sweden, which produced a first lithium-ion battery cell last night.
The company sees the opening of the massive Northvolt Ett factory as a new chapter in European industrial history, as the cell is the first to have been fully designed, developed and assembled at a gigafactory by a homegrown European battery company.
Northvolt already had lined up major customers for its battery cells, such as Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo or Scania, as Europe’s automotive industry is trying to lessen its dependence on Asian cell and battery producers amid a rapid scaling up of its electric vehicle production.
“Of course, this first cell is only the beginning. Over the course of the coming years, we look forward to Northvolt Ett expanding its production capacity greatly to enable the European transition to clean energy,” Northvolt chief executive Peter Carlsson said.
The company had first announced its plans for the gigafactory in 2017, and said upscaling of the factory will continue through into 2022, when first deliveries to commercial customers will be made.
The battery cell was developed at Northvolt Labs, the company’s industrialisation factory in Västerås, Sweden, which has been in production since early last year.
Northvolt plans to increase the output capacity at the new plant to 60 gigawatt hours per year in order to meet $30bn worth of contracts with key customers.
Northvolt also had a joint-venture with VW for a second battery cell factory in Salzgitter, Germany, but earlier this year said it will sell its stake in it to the car manufacturer, which is itself scaling up its battery making capacities, aiming to establish itself as the world’s largest e-car producer.
VW said the annual battery cell production at Salzgitter is expected to reach 40GWh from 2025 on. Both the VW factory in Germany and Northvolt's plant in Sweden will use renewable energy sources.