Infrastructure / Innovations 14 June, 2018 1:30 pm   
Editorial staff

Carlsson: Coal and energy storage? It makes no sense

Quitting combustion engines by raising the demand for coal will cause an additional problem. It makes no sense – said Peter Carlsson, CEO of Northvolt, a company that produces batteries for the needs of electromobility. Impact’18 conference was an opportunity to meet and talk. Can the EU Battery Alliance, which Germany, France, Poland and Sweden belong to, obtain support from the European Investment Bank?

Peter Carlsson: We have already worked with the European Investment Bank and they were very supportive, we already received a loan for a common project, as well as from external investors. We are talking with the EIB also to see if there is a funding support for our largest project that we are going to start working on within six-nine months.

Once you achieve that support, is it possible that European companies will come up with something that could compete with Tesla?

I think so. We want to develop battery cells designs, but we also want to be a foundry. If European companies want to develop battery chemistry, we could collaborate in a lab environment that we are building outside Stockholm, and build custom developed chemistries for different applications and then we could scale it up. This could enable Europe to start a high technology production at a very affordable cost. In Europe there is a lot of research work being done, but we have been pretty lousy at industrializing it and starting a high-scale production. The reason for that is we have been lacking a sufficient ecosystem with large scale manufacturing. This industry is going to be huge and it’s going to impact other industries, that is why it is important not to be dependent on Asian sources of material.

Companies from China, South Korea and Belgium have announced their plans to invest in Poland. Is there a chance to for the Swedish ones to do the same?

Before coming here, I was visiting industry facilities in Poland, potentially for building battery systems. There are a lot of great engineering talents here, there is a great work force and ethics, which is very intriguing for us, but at this point I would not invest in something very energy consuming just because of the nature of Poland’s energy grid. It makes no sense to use coal to build batteries.

Is decarbonization necessary for the development of electromobility?

In my opinion, it is better to develop energy-intensive industries in the north of Europe, where we have access to hydro-power and sustainable energy, and then to bring other parts of the industry to other parts of Europe, where there are other necessary factors, and a bigger market. If we do it like that, we will not create a new problem quitting combustion engines by raising the demand for coal. Let us first build a coal-free energy grid, so we can fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Interview conducted by Michał Perzyński