Volkswagen Group opened an R&D center for the large-scale production of its own battery cells in Salzgitter, Germany.
The automaker is investing 70 million euro ($83 million) in the unit, which has been built at the future cell site in the northwestern state of Lower Saxony, creating about 250 jobs.
The automaker plans to gradually set up an internal cell production facility in Salzgitter that will serve the group brands and reduce dependence on manufacturers from abroad.
The project is part of the expansion of the range of electric and hybrid vehicles that VW wants to accelerate.
The lab was officially opened on Monday by VW Chief Technology and Components Officer Thomas Schmall.
A pilot line for test and small series batteroes already exists on the site, which was previously an internal combustion engine plant. Starting in 2025, the site will start large-scale production of cheaper "unit cells" for volume models.
The laboratories will enable extensive cell testing programs with up to 200 different analytical methods and the development of new formulations on an initial area of 2,500 square meters.
The Salzgitter site has scanning electron microscopes for the detection of lithium. Other equipment includes a highly automated test field to test cells for performance and signs of aging during rapid charging and discharging.
The laboratories are split into four areas; a cell development lab, an analytics lab, an environmental and safety lab, and an electrical test field.
VW Group recently announced its intention to build at least six of its own battery cell factories in Europe.
In addition to Salzgitter, a site in Skelleftea, northern Sweden, has already been chosen, and a third site in Spain is likely, but no decision has been made, Schmall told the German Press Association (DPA).
The automaker is already in partnership for battery technology development with Sweden's Northvolt, Gotion in China and the California-based company QuantumScape.
Schmall told the DPA the new laboratory in Salzgitter will be "the core of our global efforts" in battery research and a kind of "blueprint" for the interlinking of development and production.
The VW works council is also pushing for another German battery cell plant. According to insider sources, the states of Saxony and Lower Saxony are also likely to be in the running.
By the end of 2022, roughly a quarter of the more than 1,000 employees at the Salzgitter battery site will be deployed in the laboratory.
At present, about 160 of the 500 employees of a "Center of Excellence" work in cell development.
The plant is targeting production of up to 40 gigawatt hours a year for the total electrical energy of the cells produced.
In the U.S. and China, local battery centers would also make their own contributions to the push for batteries and battery technology.
"There will be a division of tasks," VW said. Salzgitter, however, would have a central role to play.
At the Munich IAA auto show last week, VW Group CEO Herbert Diess expressed optimism that there would be sufficient funds, internal or external, to pull off the ambitious battery factories building plan by the end of the decade.
"The required capital is available in the market. Northvolt has shown this," Diess said on the sidelines of the show.