Swedish battery firm Northvolt is planning to use South Korean equipment makers instead of those in China to procure battery assembly equipment, TheElec has learned.
The European company had used equipment from Lead China, also known as Wuxi Lead Intelligent, for its battery assembly process up to now. The Chinese firm also supplied formation equipment together in turn-key to Northvolt.
However, once Northvolt installed the mixing equipment and began operating its production line, performance levels were lower than it expected, people familiar with the matter said.
Formation equipment, which was supplied by Lead China, was especially problematic, they said. Unsatisfied with the Chinese company's equipment, which was the main cause of disappointing performance of the line, the Swedish firm is looking to use more assembly and formation kits from Korean firms going forward, they added.
Besides assembly, Northvolt uses mixing equipment and electrode equipment from South Korean companies Jeil Machine and CIS.
Lead China had acquired its compatriot battery equipment maker Titan back in 2017. Titan was responsible for supplying the problematic formation equipment to Northvolt, the people said.
Titan even failed to meet the deadline for delivery and the European firm had difficulty in installing the assembly equipment, they said.
Despite this setbacks presented by the Chinese company, it is unlikely that Northvolt will remove Lead China as its supplier.
The pair has already agreed on a deal for the Chinese firm to supply 16GWh worth of equipment. Northvolt currently operates a capacity of 8GWh in its factory, which means it will continue to use Lead’s kits for another 8GWh.
South Korean companies are expected take part in Northvolt’s next addition of 45GWh capacity after that. The company is planning to expand its capacity by three stages, adding 15GWh in each stage.
Northvolt has secured US$2.75 billion in funding for this expansion for Volkswagen, Goldman Sachs and other companies.
The European firm is planning to expand its capacity to 150GWh by 2030.