As major European economies gradually replace gasoline cars with electric vehicles, the supply of battery materials will become increasingly scarce. In that case, batteries with wood components are said to be one of the strategic supplies of the future.
Swedish electric vehicle battery maker Northvolt will partner with paper and packaging company Stora Enso to develop a battery that integrates components derived from wood in the Nordic 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-based polymer found in the cell walls of terrestrial vascular plants. Plants contain about 20-30% of lignin with the function of a binder, giving strength to the stem. In addition, Lignin is also a common 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 which is a lignin-based anode material. Meanwhile, Northvolt will focus on battery design, developing manufacturing processes and scaling the technology.
The two companies say the material will be sourced from sustainably managed forests. Stora Enso says it is one of the largest privately owned forests in the world.
Johanna Hagelberg, Stora Enso Deputy General Manager for Biomaterials, said lignin-based carbon fiber will “ensure Europe’s strategic supply of anode materials” and serve “sustainable battery needs for the diverse applications”.
The effort to develop batteries from a variety of sources comes as Europe’s major economies set out plans to phase out diesel and gasoline-powered 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 zero-emissions. The European Union (EU) is currently pursuing similar goals.
As the number of electric vehicles on the road increases, the supply of electric vehicle batteries will become increasingly important and competitive. Earlier this year, the CEO of Volvo Cars 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 enterprises 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 in 2021. In the first quarter of 2022, electric vehicle sales reached 2 million units, up 75% from three first month of 2021.