Engineering giant Siemens is banding together with Saft, a unit of French oil company Total and other European firms to develop a new generation of batteries and take on the dominant Asian producers of a key component for everything from electric cars to distributed energy.
The new alliance will present a plan Friday in Brussels, Handelsblatt has learned, to get some of the financial support the European Union has pledged to establish battery production in Europe. Asian producers like Samsung, Panasonic and China’s CATL currently account for 90 percent of the market, consisting mostly of lithium-ion batteries, making the European project a high-risk bet.
“What I expect for battery cell production is that a handful of Asian producers will quickly scale up and cells will become a commodity,” cautioned Henning Wicht, a battery expert at IHS Marketing. Similar to the development in solar modules, that will mean users can get the same quality from any producer, so that it will be difficult to make any money on them.
The European alliance as a result will focus on advanced high-density Li-ion cells and a new generation of solid-state batteries. It will also rely on fully automated production to reduce labor costs. This is the key role that Siemens will play, though participants cautioned that this would not become a new billion-dollar business for the Munich company.