Energy crisis: Northvolt threatens to move its battery factory to the United States

Posted Oct 30, 2022, 4:21 PMUpdated on Oct 30, 2022 at 4:22 p.m.

The second wind of the energy crisis is beginning to affect European industry. For the past three months, announcements of factories being idled or stopped have been scattered every week because of excessive gas or electricity prices. It is now projects for new factories that are canceled or put on hold.

Swedish electric battery cell maker Northvolt said on Saturday it was considering moving its giant factory project from Germany to the United States. Its leader Peter Carlsson in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung made no secret of eyeing more attractive prices and subsidies on the other side of the Atlantic.

Because in the balance of certain industrialists, the indigestible bills are added to the two current forces of attraction of the United States: an energy up to two times cheaper than in the rest of the world thanks to the exploitation of shale gas . But also a tide of incentives for the establishment of factories poured out by the Biden plan in favor of low-carbon energies. In the automotive sector, for example, tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles are reserved for vehicles produced on site.

“We are now at a point where we can prioritize expansion in the United States over Europe,” said Peter Carlsson, who estimates that the cost of producing batteries could decrease by 30 to 40% ‘ in the USA.

Two terawatt hours

The Swedish battery manufacturer announced in March that it had chosen Germany to locate its third factory north of Hamburg. The first of these was inaugurated at the end of 2021 in northern Sweden, in Skellefteå, for a capacity of one million electric vehicles per year. A second plant is being built in Gothenburg with Volvo. The German site was to equip up to 3 million cars and bring the supplier closer to its manufacturer customers.

The first two factories are betting on the abundant and economical energy of Sweden, but the third project which would consume two terawatt hours per year finds itself confronted with prohibitive German tariffs. As a result, the opening announced for 2025 seems compromised.

Protectionism

European manufacturers were not mistaken this summer, strongly denouncing American measures deemed protectionist. “The United States can thus become the most interesting site in the world for the manufacture of battery cells,” said Peter Carlsson. The leader takes the opportunity to call on the European Union to adopt similar measures, while discussions in Brussels around the capping of energy prices are stalling.

Northvolt’s doubts could revive rumors about another car battery gigafactory, that of Tesla near Berlin. The press then mentioned the freezing of Elon Musk’s project for the same reasons of cost, without the information being denied by the industrialist.

Duralex on break on Tuesday

Peter Carlsson’s remarks are in any case not likely to reassure European industrialists as the crisis affects more and more companies as energy contracts are renegotiated. The CPME published a survey on Sunday stating that nearly one in ten VSE / SME managers are considering stopping their activities because of the rise in energy prices.

Tuesday 1er November, it is another symbol of this crisis which will materialize: the Duralex glass factory will cease production for four months to save money during the winter.

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