Volkswagen announced its plans to make its battery manufacturing subsidiary, PowerCo, a “global battery champion.”
Despite Volkswagen’s arguably conservative approach to electrification in its automotive brands, its presentation regarding its battery manufacturing sub-brand PowerCo was anything but. Volkswagen has ambitious goals for the fledgling company that only started earlier this year. PowerCo aims to achieve these goals quickly “through low complexity and standardization.”
For some background, the PowerCo brand only started earlier this year when it broke ground on its first battery manufacturing facility in Germany. The sizable factory has a production capacity of 40GWh, but its real strength is in its standardization. Volkswagen has standardized its battery design (that will be used in VW Group products) and standardized the factory where the batteries will be produced, reducing construction costs and startup times, claims Volkswagen.
But standardization is only one of the advantages Volkswagen believes PowerCo holds over other battery manufacturers. Foremost, Volkswagen was quick to point out that the new company would have access to one of the world’s largest customers of lithium batteries: VW Group. The German auto giant estimates it will eventually require up to 240GWh of battery manufacturing per year.
The final advantage that Volkswagen announced was vertical integration, which it is willing to go the extra mile to achieve. Not only will PowerCo work to establish lithium refining capabilities, but the company will also establish its own lithium mines. A market that many automakers, including Tesla, have been hesitant to enter.
After presenting these advantages, Volkswagen revealed plans for the future of PowerCo. The German battery plant (currently under construction) will enter production in 2025. Following it, the second plant in Valencia, Spain, will begin production in 2026. Thereafter, PowerCo will look to establish a standardized battery manufacturing facility in North America and then three more facilities in Europe from 2027 onward.
PowerCo will also be expanding to serve non-VW Group brands as well as non-automotive use cases, including but not limited to; maritime, energy storage, and train manufacturing customers.
To conclude, Volkswagen focused on the sustainability of the up-and-coming PowerCo. By working with Volkswagen Group brands, PowerCo will establish a circular ecosystem of batteries, hopefully reducing both waste and the cost of raw material extraction.
It is unclear how this shift to self-reliance will affect current Volkswagen battery suppliers like Northvolt. What is more evident is that battery manufacturing capabilities are becoming a significant part of many different automotive brands. It will be interesting to see how the industry reacts to the shift in the coming years.
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