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Sweden’s Northvolt raises $2.8B to supercharge EV battery output (reuters.com)
231 points by cpach 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments



This is a big thing for Sweden, especially for the region of Norrland.

I guess one could say that Norrland is like Sweden’s Montana or something like that.

Currently Norrland is receiving lots of business interest and investments. Northvolt is one example. H2 Green Steel is another. For the local population I believe this is very good news. It should give lots of job opportunities that will spill over to other areas such as service jobs.

Some reasons that are often cited why Norrland is a good location is the availability of clean energy from hydropower[0] and that there is also a high level of competence already when it comes to modern manufacturing methods.

[Edit: province → region]

[0] Totally different story in the south of Sweden where nuclear reactors have been decomissioned, and the energy availability seems to become more and more uncertain.


(Norrland isn't a province. It's one of three regions of Sweden, roughly the two northern thirds of the country by area, containing nine of the twenty-five traditional provinces.)


This is further complicated by the fact that Sweden is divided into 21 administrative units (the twenty-five traditional provinces are non-administrative units), in Swedish called "regioner" (formerly "landsting"), where five of these are situated in Norrland.


It may be also relevant that (from Wikipedia) it only has 1.2M /10.3M = 12% of the population of Sweden.


Way more than Montana, which has only .3% of the US population, though Norrland and Montana are similar in absolute numbers.


They are also similar in population density. Norrland has 8.6 people per square mile while Montana has 7 per square mile.


Area-wise Norrland is roughly 60% of Sweden’s total area[1], while Montana is less than 4% of the US total area. I think that makes the comparison more fair.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Sweden


Interesting. I’ve been to Stockholm a few times extended and definitely heard of Lapland, but not Norland.


Finland was historically a part of Sweden for about 600 years, and the northernmost part was called Lapland. Nowadays that part is split into Swedish Lapland and Finnish Lapland. Norrland (literally "northern land") is the name for the part of Sweden that is north of approximately 61 degrees northern latitude, so it includes Swedish Lapland but also a lot more.


Lapland is a historical province in Sweden. You'll also find a northernmost part of Finland with the same name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapland

One area around three national parts (Padjelanta, Sarek, Stora sjöfallet) is also called Laponia.

But the political division of Sweden around that area - that's Norbottens län, so that's the subdivision that people care most about in their day-to-day life.


Norr means ”north”. Norrland is the Northern 2/3 of the country. It’s not formally defined but more like the “Midwest” and similar. Lapland is a part of Norrland.


Lappland is a part of Norrland, but both of these terms are used in a historical sense as cultural/geographical regions, and nowadays replaced by counties


Username checks out. :-)


Good point! I edited my comment.


Green Steel sounds extremely interesting.

If this is succesful, I hope it leads to big changes in other heavy industries.


Here’s a link with more info in english on the topic:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-23/hydrogen-...


I fully agree. I’m very excited to follow this development.


The story when IKEA arrived in Haparanda is one of my favourite ones. The "mayor" (komminfullmäktigeordförande) was seen being very nervous before a meeting with Ingvar Kamprad (founder of IKEA) carrying with him some calculations about geographical customer data.

After the meeting they are both smiling. Some weeks later Ingvar "Haparanda-messiah" Kamprad delivers the news of a new IKEA in Haparanda.


Telga, one of my favorite battery supply companies is up there too. They will be locally mining, refining and coat graphite in the same area.

Its a really cool company, I recommend people check them out.


I believe they’re called Talga (^_^)


Is Province really the correct nomenclature for Norrland? I'd call it a region at best.


Region in English, yes, using the definition from Wikipedia: "In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental geography)".

Absolutely not "region" in Swedish though, which refers to the 21 administrative units that Sweden is divided into.

I've always found it extremely difficult to translate these concepts between different languages.


Norrland is one of three landsdelar. Wikipedia translates it Lands of Sweden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lands_of_Sweden


Hello everyone, glad this made it in Hacker News. I am a software engineer at Northvolt and I am just dropping by to say that we are hiring and for a few positions we also sponsor visas:

https://northvolt.com/career/

Northvolt goes far beyond just cell manufacturing. We also make BMS (battery management systems) and a lot of our value added is oriented towards digital services like remote monitoring (IoT) and data science analysis

On the cell manufacturing side we also do a lot of data science to help optimise our factory and detect errors earlier in the process

Besides Software roles we also hire Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical engineers as one would expect

Also on some more other news, a few months ago Northvolt acquired Cuberg, a startup focusing on high-density cells for specialised devices like electric aircraft:

https://cuberg.net/news/northvolt-acquires-cuberg

Please upvote so people see this post :)


Another Northvolt employee here. Besides relocation, we think about allowing remote from European time zones for software development roles.


Hi. Is there any public information on what you guys are doing with your cathode production?


Not to my knowledge, but I am not working on that specific area of the Company


In case you’re interested in Northvolt and other Swedish tech companies: I’m curating a free weekly newsletter on Swedish tech in English (the only one, afaik). You can check it out at http://swedishtechweekly.com


Related to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27446907 tracking in emails, signup is blocked by Firefox with enhanced tracking protection enabled (which I think is default now). I had to go to previous issues and sign up from there, and solve captcha, and confirm my email address. I hope the newsletter is worth all that work :)


Great that you didn't give up :)


Thank you for doing it! We’ve been subscribers for a while now and it’s great.


My pleasure. It's fun, and there's so much going on in Swedish tech.


That's a cool resource, subscribed. One minor thing regarding the website, the placeholder texts for the fields don't reappear when you clear them.


Thanks for letting me know. Let's see if I can figure out how to fix that.


Hey, that’s an awesome resource!


Happy to hear that :))


Nice company. Basically two guys who worked on Tesla Nevada and were like 'we could do this in Europe'. I saw some of their earliest talk and I was like this is a brilliant move for them, the European were really slow on the uptake with EV and supply chain localization.

This gave them a really nice head start to be able to get all the funding.

They seem to be doing some interesting stuff with vertically integrating cathode, but I haven't found to much information about that.


With the quite high factory worker manpower cost here in Sweden I was (maybe still am) a bit skeptical against this commodity play.

There are many examples in the past where commodity manufacturing projects have eventually failed badly against Asian competitors with dramatically lower employee costs. (Heck, even specifically in the battery space.)

As I understand it, in the short term the primary motivation is providing battery volumes at a steady/guaranteed rate to their European car industry investors since there currently is a lack of stable global supply. Hard to argue against this.

In the longer term, I'm guessing Northvolt is gambling that co2-neutral manufacturing of batteries will become an important enough differentiator - either by customer choice or EU legislation - that they'll be able to sell their batteries at what might end up being a relatively high premium.


If manpower is a visible cost (vs power, transports, raw materials) you probably aren’t doing battery manufacturing right. Automated high power manufacturing should be very competitive close to cheap hydro power and cheap ports near auto factories.


Half a year ago they were projecting having 3k employees in 2025.


I think it should be seen in context of automotive manufacturing supply chains, just in time delivery and all that. There are still much automotive manufacturing in Europe and transporting a vital part of an electric car all the way from Asia might not make sense from a supply chain perspective?


I don't think they'll keep using European-built batteries when Chinese-built batteries are readily available at a noticably lower price, perhaps 5 years from now unless there are e.g. tax penalties in place for owning a car with a battery made with co2-polluting power. Consumers will go for the car that's 10% cheaper.


This really does not hold up anymore. The idea that China is magically much cheaper despite the very long transport route is simply no longer the case.

Labor cost of the type of labor you need is already not that different from Europe. Energy can be more expensive. And the supply chain for so many batteries becomes a real issue.

Historically we have seen Tesla move from Japan produced Panasonic cells to Nevada produced cells. And this is pretty much universally considered a fantastic move by Tesla.

It is already the case that pretty much all large battery makers, including LG, SK from Korea, CATL from China, Tesla from the US and multiple new European producers all have announced gigantic investments to build cell plants in Europe.

Tesla is basically moving to a model where the battery factory and the car factory are basically in the same building or next to each other as localization is actually a huge cost driver.

See this map for the amount of localization being done:

https://battery-news.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Uebersich...


Met the CEO when he was VP of Supply Chain at Tesla. Super humble, super Swedish, very bright. This will be huge.


> super Swedish

Hah, what does that mean?


Hard to explain. I guess it's a Norway-Sweden thing


I've been binge watching Nordic Noir since the pandemic started. I think I know what you mean (My grandpa was a Swedish-American)


any recommendations?


I could go on and on about how great Nordic Noir shows are. They are a refreshing change from the American style of shows. The best are, in order, "Before We Die" (Sweden), "All The Sins" (Sweden), "Broen Bron - The Bridge" (Sweden, Denmark), "Bordertown" (Finland), "Deadwind" (Finland), "Ófærð - Trapped" (Iceland), "Rebecka Martinsson" (Sweden, first season)

I have the Millennium series queued up: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl who played with Fire", "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets"

The only Nordic Noir book I've read is Smilla's Sense of Snow, but I can't recommend.

There are two American Nordic Noir series I recommend: "The Killing", set in Seattle and based on the Danish show "Forbrydelsen." Also "Fargo" the movie and all 4 seasons of the TV series.

It's interesting that that Fargo sensibility that the Cohen Brothers captured so well comes from the Nordic regions. Duluth Minnesota was once called the Helsinki of America.


The Millennium series is really good. Both the books and the movies

And if you have the option to watch some older Beck movies, they won't disappoint either.


Thank you!


I've read few articles about it today and some are incorrectly reporting that Northvolt will be producing 150GWh of batteries after 6bln investment.

$2.8bln will finance 20GWh production upgrade, therefore Northvolt will need to raise a lot more money to achieve 150GWh production.


Those are the wrong units. A single cell's capacity is measured in Watt-Hours, which is a unit of stored energy. A factory making some number of cells per hour has its production measured in Watts, which is a unit of power.

The article makes this mistake several times, conflating energy and power in some places, but then correctly saying "150 GWh ... annual capacity" elsewhere.

PS: 150 GWh/annum is just 17 megawatts! This goes to show just how difficult batteries are to produce...


> 150 GWh/annum is just 17 megawatts!

... no no no ... these aren't single use cells, instantaneous power isn't a meaningful unit (I mean energy/time is technically power, but one couldn't compare this to power as measured from a traditional power plant or anything like taht).

If one had to somehow contort the output into watts: Recharged every week, 150GWh of car batteries would eat ~1GW of grid capacity. It is still a very long way from any meaningful fraction of grid energy (~4TW globally), but watts really aren't the right unit to measure production capacity.


I'm disappointed that this is only about expanding factory output, not some technology that would "supercharge" the actual battery output. Will there be enough lithium in the world to meet demand without some major advancements in the battery technology, I wonder?


We aren't going to see major advancements like that. Lithium cells are pretty mature technology at this point. What you're going to see is tweaked chemistries and designs (c.f. the Tesla 4680 cell everyone likes to talk about) that make batteries a little cheaper or a little lighter here and there, but with some tradeoffs.

That said: Lithium cells are already good enough and cheap enough for ground transportation to be practical. And that is in some sense the "last frontier". Static applications are already as well served as they ever will be, and no, battery powered aviation just isn't going to be practical ever (carbon nerds need to look at synfuels there).

We had the amazing revolution in battery technology already, basically. And it enabled your EV and your phone. We won the game about 15 years ago.


Boring, incremental progress is how things get done. "only" expanding factory output is a pretty big part of how you make batteries cheaper and usable in more applications.


The is no shortage of Lithium, just need more mines to open up. The price rising will make more places profitable to mine Lithium.


A couple of months ago Northvolt acquired cuberg to acquire its high-density cell designs meant to be used in specialised applications like electric aircraft:

https://cuberg.net/news/northvolt-acquires-cuberg


If this[0] shakes out, lithium will not be the limiting component. If.

https://www.mining.com/scientists-develop-cheap-and-easy-met...


Lithium is one of the most abundant materials in the Earth’s crust.


To be fair: it also concentrates poorly (there are no "lithium veins"), making extraction comparatively expensive in relation to common metals. So there's a real problem to be solved here. But it's not a "shortage" and we won't "run out".

The other components of Lithium battery chemistries, however, tend to be much rarer. Most (by kWh capacity) manufactured battery chemistries today are dependent on cobalt, which is a rare earth with some finite quantity of reserves that absolutely can "run out". Some manufacturers (Tesla in particular) seem to be having some success moving off that and onto nickel chemistries. We'll see.


Cobalt is not a rare earth. And cobalt is also not particularly rare either. For a long time there was just not much need for cobalt and the mines in Congo were cheap, but nobody bother to develop other mines.

However there are at least 4 huge nickel/cobalt mines being developed in Canada. More then that in Australia. And more other places too.

Moving of cobalt to more nickel, iron or manganese is clearly the path forward however.

Lithium is the trickiest part to scale since is practically acts more like a complex chemical then a commodity metal. Each 'mine' is highly costume in the form it lithium arrives at and the process needed. And the resulting chemicals are not commodities but rather have to be qualified with each manufactures.

I would say lithium of the quality needed is the closest to a real supply issue. Gravity is after that even if its something people don't think about much. Nickel is not exactly rare but the problem is that the current nickel production growth is very dirty.


There is an exceptionally large cobalt mine in Missouri that should have more output than the African mines within the next year or two if geologists are to be believed.


Cobalt is also used in the oil industry as a catalyst to remove sulfur from fuel. This happens in rather large quantities and the cobalt tends to have rather dubious origins as well. At least with batteries we get to recycle the cobalt, lithium and other materials, eventually. They are not permanently lost. Even our waste deposits actually contain rather large amounts of rare earths. Once they get rare enough, we'll be mining our own waste.

Economics basically push us in the right direction. Hard to source metals drive up the price and give a cost advantage to batteries that don't require them. That's already happening with Tesla. The same dynamic is pushing people away from oil before we've run out of it because it is getting more expensive over time.


And they don't even have access to Tesla's "tabless" battery patent.

https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/news/just-how-much-breakthr...


Good. We need as much battery capacity as possible. We need to overbuild it so batteries are super cheap and carmakers are begging customers to buy EVs.


Forgive my brazen armchairing but I question whether it's the right move to go all-in with Li-ion batteries at this time. Both solid state and Aluminium-graphene technologies seem around the corner and are extremely promising.


"around the corner" is the problem. That isn't now. Li-ion is good enough and the tipping point has been reached where we can now have mass adoption of EV's with Li-ion. IMO it's more important to grow the EV market share with existing Li-ion batteries than hold off for a future tech which may not arrive. + Growing the EV market will spur further investment in alternative battery tech. bigger market = bigger investments


You seem to suffer from some misunderstanding. Solid state batteries advocated by companies like Solid Power or QuantumScape are lithium ion batteries. In fact the cathode materials made by Northvolt would go 1 to 1 into a QuantumScape battery.

Northvolt has actually acquired a competitor to those above and will compete in the same field (actually lithium metal anodes, not solid state).

The fact is, that even the most advanced company in lithium metal anodes (wrongly called solid state) will not have its product in 100k cars by 2025. In the years from now to then 10s of millions of BEV have to be built, and the supplier to those cars will have made billions.

And even then, all solid state companies combined will likely not produce enough for 100k in 2025 when the production rate of BEV should be running at 10+ million a year.

So it will take many, many years for solid state (li metal tech) to be a real player in the market and 10s of billions will be made by battery suppliers until then.

For them to simply wait 15 years and do nothing would be kind of crazy.

> Aluminium-graphene

They are not even as close as Li Metal.


I am no expert either, but I would expect it will take at least ten years to commercialize any new battery technology.

Investments made today into li-ion production would expect to have a return on investment in under ten years, so it makes sense to make such an investment.

Edit: If it were to take less time to commercialize the new chemistry, it would be because it can piggyback off existing techniques. If that were the case, converting existing infra to the new battery chemistry would be possible. So the current investment would likely not be wasted.


uh, are they also committing to raise the energy density, but then only will build bigger batteries? :)


How come when a company is not American the intro is always:

[Country's]+[company name]

Whereas if the company is American it's always:

[founder's name]+[company name]

I don't know if it has to do with media or with the fact that foreign founders might want to be more in the dark compared to American ones.

In Europe wealth is historically frowned upon so people might be trying to get their millions or billions in the dark and only speak and be relevant among decision makers circles.

If that's the case then those people will dominate American corporate world in the future because it's appearent that being famous only means trouble.

Besides it makes tremendous sense. Wealth gives you a megaphone but such megaphone is useless if people are able to look your speech rehersals, while you sweat,strutter and stop mid sentence.

It's my opinion that the journey of an entrepreneur who wants to get into politcs should be:

Money > Sports franchise > social relevance ..or

Money > Own Rock band > social relevance

Money > your own movie > social relevance

It's really cringy when these SaaS guys or EVs guys try to appeal to the masses. You end up being hated by those who hate the rich and ignored by everybody else


I’m not sure about the founder part (or that it really is the trend you suggest), but I think it’s pretty normal given HN is an American media property with a heavy American user base that anything foreign gets called out with that country. The same thing happens in other countries unless the subject is well familiar. For example, searching HN’s history for Bosche doesn’t label the company itself as belonging to Germany. ARM similar isn’t identified by country either. This is a new company, and typically when manufacturing is involved, the site of manufacturing is labeled (even if in the US by state).


Good point. However, in this case the headline was chosen by Reuters.


If the founder/Investors of Northvolt had to choose, I'm pretty sure they would prefer their names in the title. Guess their names are just not famous enough, so better attribute to it to Sweden. More people probably knows who Elon Musk is than what Sweden is anyways :)

//A Swede


I moved from California to Switzerland for a couple of years, and more than one person asked if I was going to learn Swedish. It’s kind of sad really.


> I'm from Switzerland

> Oh amazing, Sweden is beautiful

pikachu face


> More people probably knows who Elon Musk is than what Sweden is anyways

Musk is like a weird combination of Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump.

He tweets like Trump, but when he gets on stage he stutters and speak as badly as Michael Bloomberg.

Regardless of what one thinks of Trump people knew him for more than being just a rich guy, he was the CEO of the Apprentice and Yankees #1 fan for a long time.

He also speaks with the utmost confidence, this is a great social skill and you can use it at will if you don't need the academics and the high IQ people on your side...in politics it's one person, one vote


US-bias is lame, but I can think of a couple counter-examples where it doesn't usually need to be mentioned: e.g. Shopify and Spotify. Could it be that once a company is successful then it doesn't come up as much?




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