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Why Gothenburg was chosen for the battery gigafactory

15 February 2022
Northvolt and Volvo Cars
Gothenburg won the tug-of-war for Volvo Cars and Northvolt’s new battery manufacturing plant. The establishment has been described as an industrial gold bar – and that gold bar is coming to Torslanda. The deciding factors were the city’s collaborative capacity, superior logistics, skills clusters, and access to sustainable cooling and fossil free electricity.

During a joint press conference, Volvo Cars and Northvolt announced that Gothenburg had emerged victorious from the months-long municipal contest. Torslanda will be the site of the companies’ new battery plant, next door to Volvo Cars’ final assembly plant.

“Establishing this gigafactory in Gothenburg is a decisive move, both to continue to transform one of the most dynamic automotive regions in the world, and to become the leading global supplier of sustainable batteries”, said Peter Carlsson, CEO of Northvolt, in a press release.

The establishment will create 3,000 new jobs in Gothenburg – along with many more in the region through the ecosystem that will be built around the large factory. Javier Varela, Head of Engineering and Operations at Volvo Cars, explained during the joint press conference why Gothenburg was selected: 

“We have looked at a multitude of sites, both inside and outside Sweden. We ultimately chose Gothenburg because of the infrastructure, the logistics, the proximity to the Volvo Cars factory where we get the materials, access to fossil-free energy, and access to skills.” 

The City of Gothenburg, with Business Region Göteborg as coordinator, has in record time developed solutions that fully meet Volvo Cars and Northvolt’s requirements.  

“We have received enormous support from the municipality and the region,” Carlsson said during the press conference.

Superior infrastructure and logistics

The logistics opportunities in Gothenburg were assessed as superior. For instance, the Port of Gothenburg is just a ten-minute drive from where the battery plant will be built. It is Scandinavia's largest port, and it is frequently described as a core of Sweden’s infrastructure. 

“No other port in Sweden can offer what we can here,” said Claes Sundmark, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at the Port of Gothenburg. “Through our route network, we reach all the important European markets, and every week we have departures to Asia. In addition, we have the capacity to expand substantially and sustainably. Huge volumes already move between Torslanda and the Port of Gothenburg, but we will have no difficulties increasing this.”

Gothenburg – a skills cluster

Another strong argument for establishing the battery plant in Gothenburg is access to skills and the city’s ability to attract new talent. Metropolitan Gothenburg is home to a skills cluster with international roots, which can supply the battery plant with engineers.
 
“It’s a strength for Gothenburg that Chalmers is here, a fully equipped technical university with the necessary conditions for providing education in battery technology,” said Mikael Enelund, Head of the Mechanical Engineering Programme at Chalmers. “We also have the ability to quickly change our existing courses to meet new needs.” 

Around 30 per cent of the students in Chalmers Master’s programme are international. Many of them are attracted by the job opportunities in Gothenburg’s well-known automotive sector and stay after completing their degrees.

However, according to Enelund, the number of newly qualified engineers is not sufficient to cover the need for labour:

“Going forward, and in cooperation with other higher education institutions and industry operators, we will also create formats to further train professional engineers who, for example, currently work with internal combustion engines and will therefore need to switch over.”

Existing expertise on battery development and innovation

The Gothenburg region already serves as an engine for innovation in battery technology and electromobility, and the region is seen as an international role model when it comes to fossil fuel-free transport systems. Progressive collaboration projects constitute an important piece of the puzzle. 

One example is the testbed called Swedish Electric Transport Laboratory (Seel), which is owned by Chalmers and RISE. Claes Winzell, Research and Business Developer at RISE, is leading a project to establish a Seel facility in Borås, where, from 2023, industry, institutes, and academia will be able to conduct safety tests on batteries. Another, even larger testing facility for electromobility is being built in Säve outside Gothenburg and will be completed in 2023.

“The Volvo Group and Volvo Cars are two operators who have promised to establish testing at these facilities,” said Winzell. “Seel will thus be able to play an important role in Volvo Cars and Northvolt’s joint battery production. 

“It’s easy to talk about the different facilities in our region, but what it actually involves is ‘brain power’. In western Sweden, we have researchers in an array of technical areas that are useful for the development of batteries and their use in products,” said Winzell.

Discussions ongoing regarding electricity supply 

Northvolt and Volvo Cars also highlight access to fossil fuel-free electricity as an argument for establishing the battery plant in Gothenburg. According to the parties, there is a plan to secure access, but discussions are still ongoing. Among other things, there are talks about offshore wind farms on the west coast.  

It is clear that the establishment of a factory of this size will generate opportunities as well as present challenges for Gothenburg. Extensive work will need to be carried out to get all the pieces in place, and a success factor moving forward will be something that has permeated the process thus far: cooperation. 

The companies behind the battery manufacturing plant have assessed that the infrastructure, the skills cluster, and now ‘battery city’ Gothenburg have what it takes to refine the gold bar that has been given to Torslanda.

Keep an eye on our channels – we will soon publish an article on what happened when Gothenburg was selected for the battery plant. Invest in Gothenburg - Follow us

 

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henrik.einarsson@businessregion.se / +46 31-367 61 27

 

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