Finland is emerging as Europe's leading manufacturer of battery materials
Following the recent announcements, it seems clear that our battery ecosystem is turning into something unique, blogs Finnish Minerals Group’s Vesa Koivisto.
Vesa Koivisto, SVP, Finnish Minerals Group
The deployment of electric cars has advanced rapidly in Europe. Although 2020 was an exceptional year due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were more electric cars sold here than in China, which has for several years been the largest market for electric cars.
Due to this development, the wishes of European consumers are now about to be fulfilled. The charging network is being rapidly advanced, and we can expect to see improvement in the battery charging speed. Electric cars capable to similar driving distances as internal combustion engine cars are also on their way.
At the same time, the electric cars are creating a completely new field of industry in Europe. Annual battery cell production of more than 600 GWh is being planned for our continent by 2030. However, as the relative share of electric cars is expected to continue increasing, I do not believe that our cell production will remain on the announced level. Batteries are increasingly needed also for other uses, such as for e-bikes and scooters as well as for energy storages connected to power grids.
Contrary to what is often thought, the announcements concerning the cell production do not mean that the matter is closed – in fact, the announcements are just the beginning.
European cell plants in urgent need of materials
Cell production is entirely dependent on the preceding steps of the battery value chain, i.e. on battery materials and chemicals as well as primary production and recycling of minerals. The realization of cell production is therefore dependant on several other areas of industry.
Car manufacturers and consumers require the production chains to be environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. As part of this work, the mineral traceability and recyclability as well as the use of recycled materials are already being developed.
In line with its national battery strategy, Finland aims to become a leading country in responsible battery production and sustainable electrification. In Finnish Minerals Group, we have contributed to achieving this goal by collaborating both with domestic parties as well as in European networks of companies, universities, and research institutes.
Unique battery ecosystem is now growing in Finland
In Finland, the development of the battery value chain has really taken off, and various development projects are now underway. Thanks to these projects, I think it is justified to say that Finland is taking the lead in Europe for the battery value chain from minerals to cathode materials.
Finnish Minerals Group has accelerated this development by negotiating with leading industry players over the past couple of years. This year, we have already made two announcements.
At the end of February, we announced that we are preparing a definitive feasibility study of a precursor plant planned in Hamina with the leading Chinese technology company CNGR Advanced Material. At the end of April, we announced that we are planning to invest in selected auxiliary processes of a Vaasa based cathode material plant planned by British company Johnson Matthey. Furthermore, we are currently preparing a definitive feasibility study with a partner on a cathode active material plant in Kotka.
Additionally, BASF is currently building a precursor plant in Harjavalta. The plant is to receive raw materials from the local Nornickel plant, which has recently announced the doubling of production. Terrafame, our subsidiary in Sotkamo, will soon launch a battery chemicals plant to start producing nickel and cobalt sulphates. The lithium chemical project in Central Ostrobothnia led by Keliber, one of the assets of our investment portfolio, has received additional funding from Sibanye-Stillwater, a multi-national mining company. Moreover, Valmet Automotive has made additional investments in battery module and package manufacturing, and Fortum has announced to expand its electric car battery recycling operations.
All in all, we live in interesting times. In Finland, we have intensified our own cooperation between various actors of the battery industry. At the same time, some of the world's leading companies are coming here, and we can expect innovative approaches from them. Our battery ecosystem is taking on a unique role, and it rightly attracts widespread attention – also from battery cell companies.
Senior Vice President, Battery operations