Maroš Šefčovič (European commission)

“We should be proud of our assets in Europe”


Maroš Šefčovič: “I am convinced we will be ready to be a world leader in high-performing, safe, competitive and sustainable batteries by 2023-2025.” (Photo: European Union)

Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission, explain the importance of interregional partnerships in order to build a competitive, innovative and sustainable battery value chain in Europe, with a view to conquering a market dominated by China.

Why is it so important to develop a European battery production industry?

Maroš Šefčovič.- “Batteries are strategic technology that Europe has to master if we want to remain the global leader in automotive industry and in clean energy systems, including energy storage. Take just one example of Chinese manufacturers who aim truly high, as they want to have 4.5 million electric cars sold annually by 2020 – something that amounts to around 20% of total expected production and sales in China.

I believe, however, that cars produced in Europe must be the best, the cleanest and the most competitive worldwide. Therefore, Europe’s independence in the battery sector is not only about our climate action in the context of the Paris Agreement but also about long-term competitiveness of our industry and preparing our workforce for future-proof high-quality jobs in Europe. According to industry estimates, some 4-5 million jobs may be created as a result.

That is why we launched the European Battery Alliance roughly one year ago and I am proud to see that it has already evolved into a network of around 260 innovation and industrial actors as well as into their close collaboration with the European commission, interested governments and the European Investment Bank.

We have not wasted a single day over the past year.

Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European commission

The battery market in Europe alone it is potentially worth 250 billion annually from 2025 onwards and we will need between 10 and 20 gigafactories here. Before launching the Alliance, I had asked: do we really want to ship this money to Asia, knowing that we have the strongest assets in Europe?!

Within one year, a lot has happened on the ground and relevant actors tell us that thanks to the European Battery Alliance, we are catching up with our Asian competitors. In the area of raw materials, China’s five-year lead just a year ago has now been shortened by two years. We have not wasted a single day over the past year. And I am convinced that Europe has what it takes to become a global leader in this area.    

What do you think are Europe’s major strengths and qualities in achieving this?

We should be proud of our assets in Europe. We have the highest skilled workforce in the world, first-class research and innovation ecosystems, and great industrial strengths throughout the value chain: from raw materials processing, to battery cells, packs, management system, the world’s strongest automotive sector and recycling industry.

Based on the collective engagement of all EU Battery actors, I am convinced we will be ready to be a world leader in high-performing, safe, competitive and sustainable batteries by 2023-2025. Several gigafactories should be up and running by then, with the production capacity of 16-32 GWh each. For instance, a demonstration line in Sweden, in a project led by the company Northvolt, is already being built and the production of battery cells is expected next year.

Our regulatory framework is creating conditions for our industry to be competitive.

Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European commission

Another consortium is in the making around the French company Saft and similar announcements on a strong partnership to produce battery cells are envisaged in Germany. Belgium and Poland are also among member States that have recognised the importance of this path and as a result are investing heavily in all segments of the value chain.

Our regulatory framework is creating conditions for our industry to be competitive, based on strong sustainability requirements from raw material extraction and processing, through low-carbon footprint production to resource efficiency and circular economy with recycling and re-use. This is where Europe’s competitive edge lies: sustainability. And in addition: innovation, as we are also set to master the next generation of battery technology (e.g. solid state), in addition to vehicle-to-grid technology so that batteries are bidirectional.  

What are the main problems that slow down the emergence of this sector and how do you act, day after day, to solve them?

One of the challenges is linked to raw materials where we have issued recommendations to the member States to help boost exploration, second use and refining capacity in Europe. Raw materials are indispensable for the clean energy transition in all sectors of the economy, including car manufacturing. Lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite are for instance, necessary for electric vehicles.

Our proactive, sustainable and socially responsible approach to raw materials will define our leadership in the global clean energy industrial revolution. As these new types of resources are becoming highly strategic, Europe must make sure – both, economically and geo-strategically – that its current dependence on fossil fuels is not replaced by another one: on primary raw materials coming from outside our continent.

For instance, China already controls much of the output from Congo’s cobalt mines. That is why in mid-December, I will meet CEOs of main raw materials organisations as well as the European Investment Bank, to see how to collectively provide solutions to boost refining capacity in Europe.