Last month European Batteries (EB) celebrated the opening of its doors. Phase one of the project will cost close to €40m, which is a very high figure for a startup in Finland. The company was founded in 2008 as a spin-off from FEVT (later on, in September 2009, FEVT merged back into EB). European Batteries produces large format lithium-ion battery systems for energy, industrial and vehicle applications with a range of 3 kWh up to 1 MWh in size.
I had the pleasure of a telephone conversation with EB’s new CEO Jukka Koskinen, former CEO of the Finnish company Ensto Oy, last week regarding the issues behind the chosen strategy to be a vertical battery system manufacturer (meaning that EB operates the whole production process from cells to complete system, allowing full control over the quality of the products).
EB’s business model is clever: the demand for end-products, the large format lithium-ion battery systems, is based on cost-efficient, long-lasting and safe energy storage solutions. The energy content (Wh/kg) of lithium-ion batteries is about three times that of lead-acid batteries and double that of nickel-based batteries. The key customer group during the first phase is the transportation industry, EV car and delivery van producers.
EB’s manufacturing facility (9000m2) in Varkaus is ready to start the mass production of large lithium ion batteries in 2010 (it will be the first in Europe). European Batteries has built an automated production line for next generation lithium-ion batteries and battery systems. With a fully automated production line and well-defined strategic decision to focus only on large-scale battery systems, EB will be cost-efficient when compared to small cylindrical size battery manufacturing. Its competitive edge is supported by EB’s good clean-dry rooms. During the first phase, the annual capacity will be 100 MWh of battery systems meeting the needs of 3000 fully electric cars. The sales price for the battery systems will be around €1,000 per kWh in small quantities. EB will be one of the few companies globally with the ability to produce single large-format prismatic lithium-ion cells that are over 40Ah in capacity.
The technology itself is based on the development of the K2 Energy Solution and has been developed further for mass production by European Batteries. The weight of the lithium-ion battery is 8-10 kg and the current charging time of a battery is 1 hour per 2kWh in one phase output. However, as Jukka stated, more important than the current charging time is the development of the current power output, availability and grid capacity.