Volkswagen knows the future of the automobile industry is electric, and it is doing its best to transition its massive German stronghold into a series of large-scale electric vehicle production facilities. A company that is less than ten years out of a major scandal involving emissions cheat devices, VW is equipped with a new head since the Dieselgate scandal initially broke twelve years ago. Herbert Diess is likely the best man for the job: he’s charismatic, he’s driven, and he knows a thing or two about the auto industry. But most importantly, the man who runs Volkswagen knows that to keep up with the surge in electric vehicle popularity, his company will need more of everything, especially batteries, which he is preparing to produce in massive numbers if the European Union’s Green Deal is approved.
Ten years ago, Diess asked the head of China’s CATL, a battery supplier, if the company would ever transition away from smartphone batteries and toward EV cells. At the time, the answer was no. However, things often change, and CATL is now supplying some batteries for Tesla at Giga Shanghai. CATL’s ability to supply large volumes of batteries, paired with its tendency to innovate, makes it one of the industry’s powerhouses.
And while Diess, who has buddied up with Tesla frontman Elon Musk in the recent years, realizes that batteries are “typically supplier products,” he knows it doesn’t have to be like that. Tesla, which has already established itself as the global leader in electric vehicle development, is beginning to supply its own cells. This not only gives the company an advantage to control the way the batteries are made and the quality of the product itself, but it also reduces prices by a significant margin, 69% in Tesla’s eyes.
Diess realizes that if electric vehicles continue to surge in popularity, Volkswagen will need more, and it will likely have to take the route that Tesla is taking. If the Green Deal goes through, Volkswagen will need an estimated 40 large battery factories on the continent of Europe alone.
“If the EU’s Green Deal goes as it is, the battery factories announced so far in Europe will only cover around five to ten percent of demand. If the Green Deal comes, we will need 40 large battery factories in Europe,” Diess explained.
The Green Deal would maintain that the EU would have around 13 million EVs on the road by 2025. This will bring one million public charging stations to various European markets, solidifying the continent as the most friendly place to drive an electric vehicle globally. That all sounds great and wonderful, but Diess is right: companies are going to need cells.
Volkswagen is in the process of building a battery factory in Salzgitter, Germany, together with Sweden’s Northvolt, Diess said. “This is an innovative, young, and still relatively small company,” and Volkswagen is still in the process of trying to solve the logistics of the whole operation. “That would be a manageable task for the large German suppliers,” Diess added in an interview with WirtschaftsWoche.
Diess’ approach for Volkswagen’s electric future is undoubtedly one that a company with the experience and dedication to automotive manufacturing can figure out. However, transitioning away from what legacy automakers have used for 100 years is proving to be a difficult task, and VW is no exception to the issues that come with building EVs. Although its ID.3 is due to roll out with fully functional software, it wasn’t always like that. Early buyers didn’t have simple functions like Apple CarPlay when they picked up their new EV from the German automaker.
But past the infotainment system, Volkswagen knows that batteries are really the bread and butter of this industry. Build a good cell, or source one, and you’re on your way, as long as you are committed to focusing purely on EVs for the future.
H/t: @Alex_Avoigt on Twitter