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Europe backs €12bn battery second life project

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The Commission has approved its second major pan-European research and innovation project with €2.9bn and 12 member countries under EU State aid rules, focussing on the secnd life and recyucling of batteries.

The European Battery Innovation project includes Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. The battery second life project will cover the whole batteries ecosystem from extraction of raw materials, design and manufacturing of battery cells and packs, and finally the recycling and disposal in a circular economy.

It also includes 42 companies with BMW, Fiat, Northvolt and Tesla that will invest €9bn, supporting as small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

“The public support will unlock an additional 9 billion euros of private investments. This brings the total investments in the project to almost 12 billion euros. So, the industry’s investments more than triple the size of the public money,” said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President.

“We will not recover from this crisis by rebuilding the world, as we knew it before the pandemic. We now have the historic chance to build a greener, more digital and resilient Europe. To tackle climate change, we have to transform how we power our world, how we heat our homes – and how we travel and move between places,” she said.

“Electric vehicles will play a key role in this [but] beyond the automotive sector, battery technologies play a crucial role, for example to better store renewable energy. So, we can tap into stored energy when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.”

“This decision follows the Commission’s approval in December 2019 of a first batteries project, with seven Member States participating. That project is currently being implemented,” she said. “This time, Germany took the lead in coordinating an even larger group of Member States and industry players to deliver the project which we are approving. It is expected to lead to new technological breakthroughs and innovations in the battery value chain.”

The second life project aims to improve the real-time control and measurement systems of batteries across the lifetime of the pack. Once batteries come to the end of their first life, for example after ten years in an electric vehicle, this will have information about its state of health. That will determine what the second life of the battery should be. Either as stationary energy storage, or for recycling for the production of new batteries. Wireless battery management systems (BMS) are seen as key for this, and Infineon is a key technology developer for this.

The project also aims at an optimal use of digital technologies in processes across the value chain, using advanced data analytics to optimise production processes.

The project is expected to significantly improve the environmental footprint of battery cell production, for example, through solvent free production processes.

The state aid rules mean that the 42 direct participants will engage with over 150 indirect partners all over Europe, including SMEs, universities and research organisations, sharing results and knowledge gained in events, publications and collaborations. They will license certain intellectual property generated on non-discriminatory terms and open certain pilot facilities for interested third parties to test their products.

But the focus is not just on batteries, as Vestager point to hydrogen as another green power source.

“Member States are already actively working on other such projects in key value chains, for example in hydrogen. The Commission will do its utmost to support their plans, provide guidance and coordinate efforts. All while preserving a level playing field in the Single Market, “ she said.

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