Volvo has signed a multi-billion dollar supply deal with two major battery manufacturers in an effort to ramp its electric vehicle transition efforts.
The Swedish luxury vehicle company has contracted with China-based CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd) and LG Chem in Korea to supply the lithium-ion batteries for its upcoming electric vehicle (EV) fleets under both its own brand and under its Polestar joint venture with Geely. Volvo expects 50% of its global sales volume to comprise electric vehicles by 2025, and this latest deal is a nod towards that bigger picture.
LG Chem already supplies batteries to most of the world’s largest car brands, including Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Renault, and it plans to increase its current production capacity to 100 GWh per year by 2020 in order to meet the growing demand driven by EV developments. CATL, on the other hand, is already China’s biggest EV battery manufacturer and its newest factory is aiming for a 25 GWh per year production capacity. In contrast, Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Sparks, Nevada has already reached 35 GWh capacity with its Japanese battery supply partner Panasonic, albeit that level is still theoretical. The actual output is around 24 GWh annually.
Tesla’s relationship with Panasonic is different than the traditional supplier relationship other car makers have with their battery manufacturers, namely in that they are partners. This way, Tesla has a reliable supply of batteries to manufacture its vehicles, and Panasonic has a guaranteed buyer. When battery supply and the car production rates are matched, both companies experience a win-win situation, and they can work together effectively to ensure that best outcome for both parties. Panasonic currently produces the 18650 battery cells used in the Model S and Model X and the 21700 cells utilized in the Model 3.
Volvo’s decision to transform Polestar into a high-performance, stand-alone brand came in 2017, and the launch of the all-electric Polestar 2 fastback in February this year officially put the company in the running as a direct Tesla Model 3 competitor. The Polestar 2 is equipped with dual motors which produce over 400 hp and power the car from 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. However, this doesn’t quite match up to the Model 3 Performance’s 450 hp and 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds at the same price point – both cars are offered for around $60,000.
Tesla’s battery ranges also increased significantly for all new vehicles since the Polestar 2 unveiling, which means more innovation in battery efficiency will be in order if Volvo and Geely truly want to compete against the Model 3. Polestar’s 78 kWh battery is estimated to have a 275 mile range while the Model 3 Performance is rated for 310 miles of range. That particular variation might not be where Polestar has the most competition, though. The Model 3 Long Range keeps the 310 mile range, has a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, and has a price point of about $50,000, all stats which outperform Polestar 2’s announced capabilities for a much lower cost to consumers.
Overall, however, Volvo’s new deal with LG Chem and CATL indicates that the company is serious about electrifying its fleet, and competition is good for innovation all around. Polestar 2 is set to begin production in 2020.