From an a-ha! moment to a multi-billion dollar plan to develop a world-class electric car battery industry, two Norwegian environmental heavyweights are teaming up under the name Morrow Batteries, to build a battery factory with 32GWh capacity.
The brain child of environmental activist and co-founder of the Norwegian environmental NGO Bellona, Frederic Hauge, who with pop band A-ha imported the first electric car into Norway in 1988, Morrow Batteries intends to take advantage of the potentially massive demand to power electric vehicles (EVs) that is coming in the next decades.
In 1989, Hauge would plug Bellona’s first electric car into his office via a cord coming out of his window. Electric cars have come a long way in the Scandinavian nation since then: it is now the market leader in electric vehicles by market share (in March, 70% of all car sales in Norway were plug-in electric) and it is fast approaching 300,000 registered electric vehicles nationwide.
The international electric car market is growing and with that also the battery market, expected to reach 450GWh per year by 2030 in Europe alone, according to a recent report by the UK’s Faraday Institution.
Now, clean energy provider Agder Energi and industrial waste company Noah, which is owned by Norwegian investor Bjørn Rune Gjelsten’s Gjelsten Holding AS, are joining forces to claim a stake in the growing EV battery industry with the new company, Morrow Batteries, that will see 20 billion kroner ($A4.46 billion) injected to kickstart a new battery factory that will be built in Agder.
Morrow Batteries sees the opportunity in being part of powering the global shift to electric mobility – and says that Norway is an ideal location.
“Battery production will soon become a new global big industry,” said Gjelsten in a statement.
“Norway has a dual competitive advantage because we already have world-class process industries and because we have access to clean energy and strong research environments. This makes sense both as an investment and as a contribution to the development of climate-friendly technology,”
An exact location has not been established for the plant as yet, but Forbes says discussions to locate it in Agder in Norway’s south add up, as it is situated close to the continent, and it has access to raw materials and surplus renewable energy.
The planned EV battery factory will rival Swedish Northvolt’s proposed battery factory which intends to produce 16GWh of batteries by 2021 and 32GWh by 2024. With Volkswagen also partnering with Northvolt to build another 16GWh factory in Salzgitter, Germany, the Swedish factory is also valued at almost 20 billion kroner ($A4.46 billion).
According to Steffen Syvertsen, CEO of Agder Energi, if Morrow Batteries can claim even a minor percent of the market the potential for job creation is also significant.
“Morrow’s goal is to develop a new, large green industry,” Syvertsen said in a statement.
“If Norway manages to take 2.5 per cent of the European battery cell market, according to SINTEF, it will provide around 10,000 new jobs. Hydropower has been crucial to the development of Norwegian industry. Now our renewable energy can be central to a new chapter in Norwegian industrial history,” said Syvertsen.
While Agder Energi and Noah form the core heavyweights of Morrow Batteries, environmental foundation Bellona which has been developing the project since 2015 will hold a smaller stake in the company, while Trondheim research organisation SINTEF, Innovation Norway, and various raw material suppliers will also continue play roles as partners in the project.
The 20 billion kroner will go towards a new research center and manufacturing facility that will leverage previous research and expertise, said Hauge, founder of Bellona in a statement.
“Five years of blood draw has made this technology investable. We have developed patents, combined expertise and raised capital. This has formed the basis for a potential new industrial adventure with enormous value creation, employment and export potential, says Frederic Hauge, founder of Bellona.
“We are going through an electrification of important functions in society. Sustainable battery production will be a major competitive advantage in that transition,” says Gjelsten.
Leading Morrow Batteries will be Terje Andersen, gleaning experience gained from international leadership roles for EY and PwC, and currently leading EY’s digital innovation efforts in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.
According to Andersen, the success of Morrow Batteries will lie in its ability to bring together risk-averse investors, industry players, research and innovation environments.
“Access to batteries is one of the biggest challenges for green restructuring, and we have the advantage that can make Norway a major battery-producing nation,” said Andersen in a statement.
“We have spent two years building the ecosystem around Morrow. As we move into the market phase, it is with two heavy players in the back and in close cooperation with Norway’s leading environments in the process industry, research and development.”
For Hauge, who is credited with playing a leading role in making EVs popular in Norway, it is the realisation of a long-held vision to leverage renewables and batteries to facilitate action on climate change.
“My starting point is that if we are to stop the escalating climate disaster then the world must quickly change from fossil to renewable energy production,” said Hauge in a statement.
“A critical factor in ensuring stable energy supply from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is that one must be able to store the energy. That was the reason why I started working on developing tomorrow’s battery technology,” says Hauge.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that 70% of cars in Norway are electric. The article has now been updated to clarify that in March, 70% of new car sales were electric.
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Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.