EU launches battery alliance to compete with Asia and US

The European Commission launched the bloc’s Battery Alliance on Thursday, as the bloc seeks to make up ground on Asia and the US in the area of battery storage development.

Leaders from the auto, chemical and engineering executives were hosted in Brussels, with notables being German chemical group BASF, automakers Renault and Daimler and engineering firm Siemens.
Maroà…¡ à… efà„ovic
Eurelectric reports a strategic plan is expected to be adopted “early next year”à‚ that could take the form of a comprehensive roadmap for the alliance, to be presented in February 2018.

The EU could support the initiative with up to €2.2bn, according to the Financial Times, which first reported on the meeting last week.

The initiative, which could lead to an Airbus-style consortium for battery production in Europe, was launched by Maroà…¡ à… efà„ovic, EU Commission Vice-President in charge of the Energy Union.

“The lack of a domestic, European cell manufacturing base jeopardises the position of EU industrial customers because of the security of the supply chain, increased costs due to transportation, time delays, weaker quality control or limitations on the design”, the Commission Vice-President said. “So, we need to act fast ” and collectively ” to overcome this competitive disadvantage and capitalise on our leadership in many sectors of the battery value chain, from materials to system integration and recycling.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has raised the possibility of state support to bring chip and battery production back to Europe and her Social Democrat challenger Martin Schulz has also called for investment in cell production in Germany.

The stakes are high, with the auto industry as a whole providing around 12.6 million jobs in the European Union, or about 5.7% of the total.

Although European carmakers assemble battery packs for electric cars, the region has no significant player in battery cells ” the essential building blocks for the batteries that are now mostly made in Asia.

The market is dominated by Japanese firms Panasonic and NEC, Korea’s LG and Samsung and China’s BYD and CATL, as well as US manufacturer Tesla.

German carmaker Volkswagen, Total unit Saft Group which makes batteries, automotive supplier Continental AG and materials technology group Umicore were among those saying they would attend the talks.

The European Commission sees batteries as being “at the heart of the ongoing industrial revolution,” saying “their development and production play a strategic role in the ongoing transition to clean mobility and clean energy systems”.

“The work starts immediately,” à… efà„ovic said, announcing the launch of a number of working groups on issues ranging from supply chain, investment financing, trade issues, and R&D.

EUROBAT
, a trade organisation representingà‚ European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers, welcomed the European Commission initiative, saying one of the key conditions forà‚  its success will be to develop a coherent regulatory framework.

One example cited by EUROBAT is “the legislative overlap” that exists between the Battery Directive, End-of-Life Vehicles Directive and the REACH Regulation on chemical safety.

“A variety of battery chemistries and technologies exists today: lead, lithium, sodium and nickel batteries. They all answer to different demands in terms of performance, capabilities and applications,” EUROBAT said, calling for “further development of all existing and new battery technologies without jeopardizing or even banning them”.

Coinciding with the Commission’s initiative, theà‚ European Association for Storage of Energyà‚ (EASE)à‚ published an update of its energy storage technology roadmap, a document drawn up withà‚ theà‚ European Energy Research Allianceà‚ (EERA), an EU-funded body whichà‚ coordinates a massive public research effort to develop more efficient and cheaper low carbon energy technologies.

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