The Northvolt – Volvo Cars joint venture: A holistic approach – Batteries News | CarTailz

The Northvolt – Volvo Cars joint venture: a holistic approach.

Northvolt and Volvo Cars partnered to build the next generation of all-electric Volvo vehicles. A shared commitment to safety and sustainability provided a solid foundation for the partnership. But what does that look like in practice? Here is an explanation of the Northvolt-Volvo Cars joint venture.

Volvo Cars aims to become an all-electric automaker by 2030. In order for this goal to become a reality, the full incorporation of battery technology is crucial. This is where the joint venture comes into play.

The joint venture will enable collaboration across the full range of battery technology, from research and cell design to production.

The JV is divided into two parts: Research & Development and Battery Production. R&D will test new technologies to develop the best possible cells for Volvo Cars product needs. These cell designs are eventually handed off to the manufacturing side of the company. Here they will be sustainably produced by the joint venture’s battery gigafactory, which is currently being set up in Gothenburg.

Why join forces?

By creating a fully integrated and frictionless environment, the JV will facilitate the development of new battery technologies.

Erik HantsooChief Technical Officer of the joint venture, explains:

The future of vehicles is electric, and batteries determine almost everything about electric vehicle performance.

“Because batteries have such a big impact on vehicle performance, you can no longer source batteries like you would a windshield wiper.”

Eerik highlights how the joint venture enables a far-sighted and holistic approach to the design, manufacture and eventual integration of batteries. In this way, battery technology is positioned more as an extension of the vehicle design and less as a component in its own right.

“Working together through the joint venture allows for closer collaboration on battery design and integration into the vehicle than would make more sense than a simple business transaction.”

This is a long term relationship

In practice, this means that Volvo Cars and Northvolt will jointly influence the entire development process – a dynamic that opens up new possibilities for innovation and improvement of the battery and ultimately the vehicle.

Eerik suggests that this is particularly important in terms of sustainability, supply chain and costs:

“There are some design features that can be added to a cell that can make cell production more expensive, but once that cell is installed in a vehicle, the overall installation cost can be lower.”

“By working closely with the Volvo Car design team, we hope to find ways to reduce complexity and cost at the vehicle level, even if it means the cell becomes a little more complex,” says Eerik.

The JV will also seize the opportunity to design for sustainability in advance. Eerik suggests that a good example is to design the cells to be easier to remove from the vehicle at end-of-life and more amenable to efficient recycling.

“Northvolt lives and breathes by manufacturing sustainable batteries and enabling the transition to electric power without doing more harm than good. That is clear to the whole world. Northvolt and Volvo are in complete agreement when it comes to sustainability.”

Customized batteries

Like any EV manufacturer, Volvo Cars has a few key characteristics that they expect from their batteries. Specific to the Volvo brand is the emphasis on safety and cold-weather performance. The JV is able to adapt the R&D and production processes to give more focus to these special characteristics.

“Volvos are safe, so the cells we put in them have to meet Volvo’s extremely high safety standards,” says Eerik, describing how the JV will invest in temperature chambers that simulate particularly severe thermal conditions over an extended period of time.

In addition, like most automakers, Volvo Cars is striving to improve the energy density and fast charge capability of its batteries. Having its own R&D facility allows the JV to focus on these key features through parallel workflows. One workstream would focus on optimizing energy density and the other would aim to improve fast charge capability.

The leading technology from each work area is integrated into a cell design that meets Volvo Cars’ specific requirements for a particular vehicle. Eerik notes that more workstreams will be introduced in the future, including those focused on longer-term technology development.

This collaboration creates space for innovation and trying different ways to achieve the best possible results.

The future of the JV

Work in the first year will focus on growing the team and setting up some essential functions. The most essential function is the internal cell structure, which starts with button and single-layer pouch cells:

“We are starting with smaller batteries. One of the benefits of starting small is that we don’t have to wait for a full production line to be up and running. We can start early.”

Over the next five years, the JV plans to scale up the design of the small battery developed over the first two years to a full-size battery.

“As we can enlarge the organization and conduct more experiments, we will increase some efforts in other areas that are strategically important for Volvo Cars. Northvolt gave us massive support as we set out. This cooperation is extremely valuable for us.”

READ the latest Batteries News shaping the battery market

The Northvolt-Volvo Cars joint venture: a holistic approach, November 7, 2022

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