A planned battery cell plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany, will be able to supply 500,000 vehicles a year when it is fully up and running, Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller said.
The cell factory is part of a joint venture between Stellantis and energy giant Total called Automotive Cells Company. It is scheduled to come online in 2025.
A sister factory in Douvrin, northern France, will start production in 2023, with an initial capacity of 8 gigawatt hours.
The factories will supply Stellantis brands as well as possibly other automakers.
Eventually, each factory will have an annual capacity of 24 gWh, Automotive Cells Company says, with a future potential of 32 gWh. The Douvrin factory is currently in a public comment period, with regulatory approval expected at the end of this year. It will be built in three phases of 8 gWh each.
ACC, as the joint venture is known, has released little information about the project in Kaiserslautern, currently an Opel component hub. But like the Douvrin plant, it will serve a dual purpose: Providing batteries for Stellantis brands and employment for workers who now build internal-combustion engines -- and who might be left behind in the transition to electrification.
In the context of declining internal combustion market share – especially diesel engines, which are built at Kaiserslautern -- and increasing consolidation of platforms, parts and engineering within Stellantis, a battery cell factory could be lifeline for some Opel workers. The Kaiserslautern cell factory site is expected to employ 2,000 people when fully operational.
"We produce diesel engines today in our factory in Kaiserslautern, but in the future we will produce battery cells," Lohscheller said in an interview with Automotive News Europe.
A successful transition to electrification "requires time and requires money," he said, "and it also requires training."
The two factories are part of an expected coming wave of cell factories in Europe as demand for electrified vehicles surges. Most cell production is now based in Asia. Volkswagen Group has recently committed to building six cell factories in Europe, with partners or by itself.
The EU has declared cell production to be an Important Project of Common European Interest, or IPCEI, making projects such as ACC’s eligible for state financing. The total cost of the Kaiserslautern plant is expected to be about 2 billion euros.
Once the two factories are built out, total investment will be 5 billion euros ($6 billion). Of that investment, 26 percent will be publicly financed by France (846 million euros) and Germany (437 million euros).
The Kaiserslautern site opened in 1966. It produces 2.0-liter diesel engines, axles and bodywork for vehicles such as the Opel Astra, Insignia and Mokka. Currently around 1,500 people work there. The diesel engines are used only in the Astra and Insignia, which are legacy models from GM.
Opel said in January 2020 that it was seeking to eliminate 4,100 jobs in Germany by 2029, including a total of 2,100 at its factories in Ruesselsheim, Eisenach and Kaiserslautern. There will be no forced layoffs until 2025, Opel said, but positions will be reduced through buyouts or early retirements.
Newer Opel models developed under PSA Group have full-electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrains, including the Grandland X plug-in hybrid, the Corsa-e full-electric, full-electric commercial and passenger vans, and the coming Astra plug-in hybrid.