Swedish electric vehicle manufacturer Northvolt is teaming up with paper and packaging company Stora Enso to develop a battery that integrates components derived from wood found in Scandinavian forests.
Under a joint development agreement, the two companies will co-produce batteries with anodes containing carbon fiber from lignin. The anode is an important part of the battery, in addition to the cathode and electrolyte.
In a recent statement, the two companies describe lignin as a plant polymer found in the cell walls of terrestrial vascular plants. Plants contain about 20-30% lignin with the function of binding agent, giving the stem firmness. In addition, lignin is also a commonly used ingredient in waste from industries such as paper and biofuels.
“The aim is to develop the world’s first industrialized battery with an anode derived entirely from European raw materials,” the two companies said.
As expected, Stora Enso will supply Lignode, a lignin-based anode material. Meanwhile, Northvolt will focus on battery design, manufacturing process development and technology scaling.
The two companies say the material will come from sustainably managed forests. Stora Enso says it is one of the largest privately owned forests in the world.
Johanna Hagelberg, Stora Enso’s deputy general manager for biomaterials, said lignin-based carbon fiber will “ensure the strategic supply of anode materials in Europe” and provide “sustainable battery needs for the diverse applications”.
The effort to develop batteries from different sources comes as Europe’s major economies are drafting plans to phase out diesel and petrol road vehicles.
The UK has set a target to stop selling diesel and petrol cars and trucks by 2030. From 2035, all new cars and trucks must be emission-free. The European Union (EU) is currently pursuing similar goals.
As the number of electric vehicles on the road increases, the supply of batteries for electric vehicles is becoming increasingly important and competitive. Earlier this year, the Volvo Cars CEO told CNBC that battery supplies will become scarce in the coming years.
Northvolt recently announced that its first megafactory, Northvolt Ett, has begun commercial deliveries to European customers. They have contracts worth more than $55 billion with major corporations such as Volvo Cars, BMW and Volkswagen. Gigafactories are facilities that produce batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk coined the term.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electric vehicle sales will reach 6.6 million units by 2021. Electric vehicle sales reached 2 million units in the first quarter of 2022, up 75% from the first three months of 2021.