On September 22nd, Skeleton Technologies has been invited to participate to a panel discussion during Energy Tech Summit 2020. This conference, hosted by Contrarian Ventures, aims to bring top European energy and mobility investors, entrepreneurs, and government leaders together to discuss about the future of energy tech.
Among the speakers were Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight (Coordinating the EU Battery Alliance), Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, Lithuania’s Minister for Energy, Stephane Villecroze, Managing Partner of Demeter, and Ignacio Gimenez, Managing director, BP Ventures, to name a few.
The panel discussion moderated by Tomas Kebla, Principal at Contrarian Ventures, was about the value of batteries and their role in the energy transition. I had the chance to represent Skeleton at this conversation and discussed with other panelists Moshiel Biton, co-founder and CEO of Addionics and Benno Leuthner, Head of Project Planning at Customcells.
Driven by the growing demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy, the battery market will have an estimated annual value of up to €250 billion by 2025. The European Union itself is planning to spend 500 million €, i.e 1/3 of its 7 years budget on green transition, including energy storage technologies. The allocation of this spending and the geopolitical implications of battery manufacturing were among the main topics we addressed.
A battery represents approximatively 40% of the value of an electric car, so consequences are not the same if European battery production will come mainly from satellite factories run by established Asian giants or from homegrown European players. Automakers need battery suppliers close by to prevent potential disruption, hence why the European Battery Alliance (EBA) was launched in October 2017 by European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič with the aim to develop a competitive and sustainable battery cell manufacturing value chain in Europe. It is a critical issue for the future of European industry and it is important to note that Covid19 has not slowed down plans for building gigafactories in Europe. 5 of them are already in operation and at least 11 more are expected by 2030.
However, as I highlighted, current batteries are not perfect, particularly for the electrification of transportation. Hence why they are increasingly combined with ultracapacitors for instance, which allow instant charging and discharging, efficient operations under extreme temperatures, long lifetime with no required maintenance and high power. The fact they don’t need raw materials is also an important factor, given that access to sustainably produced raw materials at reasonable cost is key.
Finally, the discussion moved to the topic of actions needed to shift the development of the battery value chain towards a sustainable vision. I emphasized the need to create a cross-value chain ecosystem which include mining, processing, design, recycling and complementary technologies as well. Cross-sectoral initiatives involving academia, research, industry, policy makers and financial community must be encouraged. The availability of high-quality and high-performance cells for European industries must be ensured for the purpose of maintaining the competitiveness of several European industries. Also, accessibility of financial tools through e.g. IPCEI (Important Projects of Common European Interest) and/or other financial instruments such as tax incentives is critical. All of these points are fortunately among the priorities of the EBA that Skeleton is a member of.
This discussion was a good opportunity to highlight the role of ultracapacitors as complementary technologies to batteries and discuss the importance of initiatives such as the European Battery Alliance whose industrial development programme is driven by our partners EIT InnoEnergy.