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Northvolt Pursues ‘World’s Greenest Lithium-Ion Battery’

Article-Northvolt Pursues ‘World’s Greenest Lithium-Ion Battery’

Image courtesy of Northvolt Northvolt-labs-ext.jpg
Northvolt’s key markets are automotive, industrial and energy storage systems (ESS). Key customers including BMW, Fluence, Polestar, Scania, Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars.
The Swedish battery startup is creating sustainable solutions for electric automotive, industrial, and energy storage systems.

Sweden’s Northvolt, a supplier of sustainable, high-quality battery cells and systems, is aiming to build the world’s greenest lithium-ion battery with a minimal CO2 footprint.

Founded in 2016 with a stated mission of enabling Europe’s transition to a decarbonized future, Northvolt is aiming for 150 GWh of annual cell production at 10kg CO2 e/kWh per cell produced by 2030, among other sustainability goals.

With more than 3,500 employees, Northvolt’s key markets are automotive, industrial and energy storage systems (ESS). The company has secured more than $55 billion worth of contracts to date from key customers including BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and Polestar.

As a fully integrated battery company, Northvolt’s capabilities run the gamut from cathode production and cell manufacturing to battery systems and recycling.

Big advances in 2022

2022 saw several significant advances for Northvolt:

  • January: A joint venture with energy company Galp is established to develop a lithium conversion facility.
  • February: The Northvolt Fem facility was announced for Borlänge, Sweden, to enable annual cathode production of 100 GWh.
  • March: The Northvolt Drei battery gigafactory was announced for northern Germany, with annual production capacity of 60 GWh.
  • May: The company’s Northvolt Ett plant facility delivered its first cells to customers — making Northvolt the first European battery company to make commercial shipments to a carmaker, the company said.
  • July: Northvolt raised $1.1 billion to supports planned factory rollouts in Europe.

On Jan. 3, 2023, Northvolt announced how the Swedish construction company Skanska used Northvolt’s Voltpack Mobile System to power a tower crane in the town of Slussen for seven days. “When imagining a construction site, we often picture a noisy and pollution-heavy environment,” Northvolt explained on its website. “The emergence of all-electric machines, coupled with battery solutions like the Voltpack Mobile System, present a cleaner, greener and quieter way forward.” The deployment meant Skanska was able to avoid using a diesel generator.

Northvolt’s high-performance lithium-ion battery cells are based on its proprietary Lingonberry NMC chemistry, available in cylindrical and prismatic formats. According to the company, at a cell’s end of life, up to 95% of the critical metals of nickel, manganese and cobalt can be recycled into new battery cells.

Image courtesy of NorthvoltNorthvolt-labs-int.jpg

A lab at one of Northvolt’s facilities. The Swedish company is aiming for 150 GWh of annual cell production at 10kg CO2 e/kWh per cell produced, by 2030.

Furthermore, the company projects that it will reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2030, compared to those manufacturing battery cells using coal power.

The company notes that its raw materials are sourced “in accordance with international standards and practices, as well as [by] introducing some of our own standards to secure a supply chain free from corruption of people or planet.”

‘A perfect storm for electrification’

At Northvolt’s helm is co-founder and CEO Peter Carlsson. “The combination of political decision making, customers committing even more firmly to the transition to electric vehicles, and a very rapid rise in consumer demand for cleaner products, has created a perfect storm for electrification,” he noted last summer.

Prior to starting Northvolt, Carlsson served Tesla for six years as head of supply chain. He earned his MSc degree in economics, production and quality control from Lulea Tekniska Universitet in 1994 and was hired as a quality manager for Kami AB before joining Ericsson in 1995 to serve six years as a sourcing manager. He later earned leadership credentials from the Stockholm School of Economics in 2003. In 2015, he founded Amplify Ops in Palo Alto, California, to help startups build scalable operations. He also co-founded Turnpike Group Limited that year; the company provides information technology and services.

Image courtesy of NorthvoltNorthvolt CEO.jpg

Peter Carlsson, Northvolt co-founder and CEO.

In a 2020 talk, Carlsson discussed the extraordinary electrification opportunities on the horizon, particularly as regards energy storage.

Taking Stockholm’s electricity grid as an example, he noted that if 25% to 30% of the city’s car fleet is electrified within the next 10 years, the city would need to double its peak-hour capacity:

“This is doable in two ways. One is that you dig up the entire city and you put massive amount of copper cables in order to facilitate that. Or you're starting to build in energy storage which you bring in energy during lower consumption hours, and you utilize that for charging these vehicles during the high consumption hours. And obviously, it's going to be a combination that I think we've just seen the beginning of this transformation. And I'm super excited about the business opportunities that come with that.”

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