The construction of the Northvolt Labs research centre dates from 2018, and since then Västerås has been home to a cell production pilot plant, testing facilities and a recycling pilot plant. The latter went into operation in 2020 in response to Northvolt’s planned foray into the recycling business. Now a new campus for battery technologies is to be connected to this site. The first new facility is already under construction: a research and development centre that will enable the development of novel battery cell materials and products. In parallel, a new 15,000 square metre office will be built to increase Northvolt Labs’ workforce from the current 400 to at least 1,000.
In addition, Northvolt envisions a new customer centre on site “where partners, startups, scaleups and academic institutions can meet, collaborate and jointly drive the European industry forward in battery technologies and electrification”. The Swedish company’s customers include Volkswagen, Volvo Cars and BMW. Northvolt estimate that the total investment for the expansions will be $750 million (just under €650 million).
“There is today an irreversible momentum surrounding the switch to battery electric solutions. Northvolt Labs is being expanded in order to capitalize on this – to drive the transition at even greater speed towards safe, sustainable battery solutions,” says Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt. “By establishing a campus where industrial actors can engage, surrounded by all necessary facilities, it is our belief that we can create the necessary foundation for Europe to emerge as the leading region for a technology that is at the heart of the race to decarbonize.”
With the new R&D centre, Northvolt aims to better position itself to meet the growing demand for customised solutions while pushing the boundaries of next-generation cell technologies. One focus will be on creating platforms for materials and cell research and industrialisation. Embedding the facility in the campus and the existing laboratory infrastructure will create “a toolbox spanning the full-spectrum of value-chain activities relating to lithium-ion battery design, development and lifecycle – from active materials and cell design, through to battery systems and recycling”, the company writes.
“The establishment of this campus is the natural next step for Northvolt in its quest to develop world-leading battery technologies,” elaborates Yasuo Anno, Northvolt’s chief development officer. “R&D, cell design and module development, battery recycling, manufacturing process development – these fields cannot proceed in isolation. By bringing all the parts of the puzzle together, on a single campus, we will be uniquely positioned to develop battery solutions for the global battery market.”
Västerås, with a population of more than 100,000, is located west of Stockholm. While Northvolt concentrates its research and development in Västerås, the company’s battery cell factory, called Northvolt Ett, is located in Skellefteå in northern Sweden. The battery cell plant is also known as the Volkswagen Group’s Gigafactory 1. Although Northvolt operates the plant itself, the premium cells planned there, whose cathodes will have a high nickel content, are primarily intended for Volkswagen subsidiaries Audi and Porsche. Further plants are planned – including one in cooperation with Volvo Cars.
According to media reports from the summer, Northvolt is aiming for an IPO for the capital-intensive development of cell production. Recently, the start-up has already completed several capital increases, which have reflected great investor interest. In June, Volkswagen announced that it had invested a further 620 million US dollars (around 500 million euros) in its battery partner. Volkswagen’s latest investment was part of a new financing round totalling 2.75 billion US dollars (around 2.3 billion euros) for the Swedish battery company.