According to Reuters, Thomas Schmall, a member of Volkswagen’s board of directors responsible for technology, said in an interview that Volkswagen plans to invest in mining to reduce the cost of battery cells to meet half of its own needs and sell to third-party customers.
Thomas Schmall said Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker, wants its battery unit, PowerCo, to become a global supplier of batteries for more than just its own needs. Powerco will first supply battery cells to Ford, which will build 1.2 million vehicles in Europe based on VW’s electric MEB platform.
In the long term, Schmall said, Volkswagen plans to build enough batteries to meet half of its global demand for batteries, with most of that capacity located in Europe and North America. “The bottleneck for raw materials is mining capacity — that’s why we need to invest directly in mining,” he said.
The automaker is working with Canadian mining companies on a supply agreement where it will build its first battery plant in North America.
Schmall declined to comment on other locations being considered or where or when Volkswagen might invest directly in mines, saying the company would not disclose that information until the market is more stable. There will be a handful of battery standards in the future,” he said. Through our large-scale and third-party sales business, we hope to be one of those standards.”
For automakers like VW, Tesla and Strandis seeking to make electric cars affordable, manufacturing or sourcing batteries at a reasonable cost is a key challenge.
Only Tesla has committed to investing more in battery production than Volkswagen, according to a Reuters analysis. Few automakers, however, have disclosed direct stakes in the mining industry, but many have struck deals with producers to source materials such as lithium, nickel and cobalt and pass them on to their battery suppliers.
PowerCo was founded last year with the goal of achieving annual sales of 20 billion euros (currently about RMB 146.4 billion) by 2030. That’s an ambitious roadmap for a division that doesn’t yet have mass production, with PowerCo starting production at its plant in Salzgitter, Germany, in 2025, in Valencia, Spain, in 2026 and in Ontario, Canada, in 2027.
That said, Schmall is confident that the automaker can expand quickly, which it will have to do if it wants to make an affordable electric vehicle where 40 percent of the cost comes from batteries.