Northvolt, backed by Volkswagen, will develop wood batteries for electric vehicles

This 2007 picture shows logs and wood chips outside the Stora Enso paper mill in Finland. The company says it is “one of the largest private forest owners in the world.”

Suzanne Plunkett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Northvolt will work with Stora Enso to develop batteries that include components produced from wood harvested from forests in the Nordic region.

The joint development agreement between the companies will allow them to work together to produce a battery that contains an anode made from something called lignin-based hard carbon. Along with the cathode and electrolyte, the anode is a key part of the battery.

Electric vehicle battery maker Northvolt and Stora Enso, which specializes in packaging and paper products among others, described lignin in a statement Friday as “a plant-based polymer found in the cell walls of dry plants.” According to the companies, trees consist of 20% to 30% lignin, which acts as a binder.

“The goal is to develop the world’s first industrial battery with a function [an] anode, which is entirely obtained from European raw materials,” the companies announced.

If the plans fall through, Stora Enso will supply Lignode, which is its lignin-based anode material. Northvolt will focus on cell design, manufacturing process development and technology deployment.

The companies said Lignode would come from “sustainably managed forests”. Stora Enso says it is “one of the largest private forest owners in the world.”

Johanna Hagelberg, Stora Enso’s executive vice president for biomaterials, said its lignin-based hard carbon will “secure Europe’s strategic supply of anode raw materials” and serve “the needs of sustainable batteries for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage.”

Read more about electric vehicles at CNBC Pro

The attempt to develop battery materials from different sources comes at a time when major European economies are making plans to move away from road vehicles that use diesel and petrol.

The UK wants to stop the sale of new cars and vans with diesel and petrol engines by 2030. From 2035, it will require all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions. The European Union, which the United Kingdom left on January 31, 2020, pursues similar goals.

As the number of electric vehicles on our roads increases, battery supply will become an increasingly important — and competitive — cog in the automotive sector.

Earlier this year, the CEO of Volvo Cars told CNBC that he thinks the supply of batteries will be “one of the things that will be in short supply in the coming years.”

Sweden-based Northvolt recently announced that its first major plant, Northvolt Ett, has begun commercial deliveries to European customers. The company says it has contracts worth more than $55 billion with companies such as Volvo Cars, BMW and Volkswagen.

Giga factories are factories that produce batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is widely recognized as the originator of the term.

Northvolt recently announced a $1.1 billion funding raise, with a range of investors — including Volkswagen and Goldman Sachs Asset Management — participating in the capital increase.

According to the International Energy Agency, sales of electric vehicles will reach 6.6 million in 2021. Electric vehicle sales totaled 2 million in the first quarter of 2022, a 75% increase over the first three months of 2021.

Elvira Parkinson

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