The German car industry cannot move forward in electromobility until it can independently produce its own battery cells. Currently, carmakers in Germany are reliant on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean battery products, and both the suppliers and manufacturers are happy to keep it that way. But the German Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier, who is slowly becoming a proponent of electromobility, wants this to change now.
Altmaier has proposed two large-scale construction projects, costing around a €1 billion each, with plans to build mass-production facilities. A further €600 million would be allocated for a research factory, together with the Fraunhofer Association, to support future battery cell development and innovation. The Ministry of Economics and Technology is joining forces with the Federal Ministry of Research to put together a proposal for the Cabinet to review, on which they will vote on October 19th.
Over the past ten years, Germany has invested around €500 million into battery cell research, but until now nothing much has come of it. Chancellor Angela Merkel has also been in favor of battery cell development, but major German manufacturers have been reluctant to jump on board and are perhaps more dependent than ever on Asian suppliers. Both BMW and VW recently committed to CATL, a Chinese battery manufacturer which now has plans to build its own industrial-sized factory in Europe next year (probably Eastern Germany, Erfurt). However, VW CEO Herbert Diess has been pushing the company to go electric and invest in batteries, and is allegedly looking into in house battery production.
Chancellor Merkel spoke last week about the factories, stating, “If China is opening the first battery cell production here, then that is nice. Then battery cells are being made in Europe too. But I don’t know whether it was our dream that we cannot do that ourselves in the European Union.” She continued, “I am still advocating that we develop the strategic ability to produce battery cells too. I believe that will be extremely important in the next decades.”
One of the locations for Altmaier’s proposed factories may be in Lusatia, which borders with Poland, making cross-border collaboration a big possibility. The area was known for its major role in the coal industry and so this facility and the production of clean alternatives could help bring the region back into play. We’re excited to find out more about the government’s plans in mid-October and which manufacturers come on board. Stay tuned.