How the battery plant ended up in Gothenburg
On 4 February, Northvolt and Volvo Cars revealed during a press conference that their joint battery factory will be in Gothenburg. For just over seven months, eight different administrations and three municipal companies in Gothenburg collaborated to quickly develop solutions for the wishes and requirements that were set for the battery plant. The work has been led by Henrik Einarsson, Director of establishment and investment services at Business Region Göteborg and project leader for Team Gothenburg
"In our industry, this is like winning an Olympic gold medal. We have been working so intensively for quite some time and now we have finally reached the finish line. It feels amazing,” he says.
Utilising competence within the city – a key factor
It all started in June 2021 when an e-mail landed in Henrik Einarsson’s inbox. It contained documents from Northvolt and Volvo Cars with a description of the ambitions for the factory and what parameters were important for it to be established.
The time limit from when the e-mail arrived until the answers were to be submitted was short. The deadline was the 20 August, less than two months away – and in the middle of summer. An executive-level working group was quickly established for the constituent administrations and companies most affected. That is, the city planning office, the real estate administration, the traffic office, cycle and water services, the city executive office, Gryaab and Göteborg Energi. Since the start, the group has had meetings two evenings a week.
“We quickly set up a project to get started and there was not much free time for the members of the team. During the daytime everyone’s calenders were full and we needed to find meeting times and quickly - they therefore ended up in the evenings. Everyone understood immediately the importance of succeeding with this and it has been a fantastic line-up and support,” says Henrik Einarsson.
There was also fresh in the memory, an unsuccessful campaign to attract Northvolt's first battery factory in 2017, which was located in Skellefteå.
“We also fought hard at that time and participated until the end, but it was not enough to go the whole way. However, we learned a lot from that process and also from other processes that we have had since then. And that experience helped us this time.”
One of the lessons was at an early stage to involve several different individuals and competences from different parts in the city in order to identify solutions to the complex issues. A total of 50 people have contributed in different ways during the process.
“Later on, this turned out to be the absolute key to success,” says Henrik Einarsson.
Short of time
One of the most important and challenging parameters during the process was the time factor. Since the factory is due to be completed by 2025, things had to move quickly.
“We had to not only think about whether we met the criteria, but also whether this was feasible at this time. Is the location appropriate? Are we able to produce a detailed plan at the appointed time? How do we solve the challenges? Is there enough electricity and water? Can we attract international expertise? Can we find the workforce? Do we need to build homes, schools and preschools?” says Henrik Einarsson.
With less than two weeks to go until the documents were to be submitted, the site in Torslanda had been found and the investigations showed that it would be fully feasible to build the factory on the intended site. The area was already planned for industrial activities according to the city’s master plan. The next step was to start the zoning plan.
Zoning plan started before decision
In order to stick to the timetable, the zoning plan needed to be started before the decision on the location of the factory came, so that work was started already in October last year.
Normally, the building committee decides on every step of the zoning planning process – from decisions on start-up to consultation, review and approval or adoption. In connection with consultation and review, the zoning plans are usually also referred to the relevant referral committees. In order to speed up the battery factory process, this time the building committee has been asked to only make decisions about start-up and approval and it was agreed with them and the City Executive Board’s work committee to in principle only use rapid official referrals during the planning process.
“Since a minimal number of political decisions are made in the planning process now, it is important that we are transparent and I keep the building committee informed on an ongoing basis,” says Henrik Kant, city planning director at the city planning office of Gothenburg.
The next step is review of the zoning plan. In June, the building committee will give its approval and in August the city council will make a decision. At a later stage building permits will be required, these are planned to be implemented in parallel with the plan as well as environmental permits - which are being handled by Northvolt and Volvo Cars - before building can start. Once the zoning plan has been adopted, it will have been just over ten months since work on the zoning plan was formally started. Normally, a similar process takes two to three years.
Another major challenge has been to be able to take an inventory and make compensatory measures for protected species in the area and to get a good surface water management and public transport solutions in a short period of time.
“That we have been able to work so quickly has been possible thanks to competent and agile staff and good collaboration with politicians and the county administrative board. We have really managed to mobilise quickly and resolved advanced issues in a short period of time. We have the cooperation between administrations and companies to thank for this,” says Henrik Kant.
Circular and sustainable cooling process
The battery factory will rely on huge amounts of water to cool down the manufacturing process. Today, wastewater from eight municipalities comes to Gryaabs Ryaverk, a sewage treatment plant, at Hisingen. The water is purified and then released into the Göta River. But when the battery factory is up and running, part of the total flow will be sent in a large pipe to Torslanda. There, the water, called technical water, can be used for cooling purposes. During cooling, the water becomes heated and can then also be used in Gothenburg’s district heating network.
If water was instead obtained from the Göta river, costly electricity would be required to cool the water. In addition, a water rights decision is required which takes a long time to obtain and could delay the schedule.
“It is a circular system that delivers according to all sustainability parameters – financial, ecological and social. We have looked at other places in Europe and have been unable to find such a large circular water and waste water project elsewhere,” says Karin van der Salm, CEO of Gryaab.
She also emphasises the collaboration between different actors as an enabler for the success of the project.
“We have worked closely with Kretslopp och vatten and Göteborg Energi. It is a very good collaboration, forming the basis for us to be able to achieve this. When you want something together, you find the way forward - this is what we have done,” says Karin van der Salm.
A gratifying message
On 3 February, the day before the press conference, Henrik Einarsson sat in a room in Business Region Göteborg’s office together with his colleague Patrik Andersson, CEO of the company. The chairman of the City Executive Board, Axel Josefsson, Volvo Cars and Northvolt were also present via a link. A message was finally expected - a gratifying one as it turned out: The battery production plant will be located in Gothenburg.
“We're really looking forward to this. What has impressed me the most in the process is clearly the teamwork. The way of working and commitment that we have seen from everyone involved has been absolutely fantastic,” says Henrik Einarsson.
- Why Gothenburg was chosen for the battery gigafactory
- Northvolt and Volvo Cars choose Gothenburg for new battery factory
- Volvo Cars to invest billions to upgrade manufacturing plant
- Volvo Cars and Northvolt to open Gothenburg battery R&D centre
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
If you are considering establishing, investing or innovating in the region, our industry experts can provide you with information, contacts and advice. Our services are tailor-made to your needs and are available free of charge and in full confidentiality. To learn more, please contact: