• Director "Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure"

    Thomas Skordas

Battery technologies are essential for the future of the transport and energy sectors in Europe. Batteries will become more and more important for our daily lives, be it in our cars, in our homes or in our electricity grid infrastructure. EU academic and industrial experts met today at a workshop to discuss about the long-term research challenges in battery technologies.

Clara de la Torre, Director Transport, DG RTD, and Thomas Skordas, Director Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure, DG CONNECT

Clara de la Torre, Director Transport, DG RTD, and Thomas Skordas, Director Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure, DG CONNECT, share with you some of the most important takings of the workshop.

Last October, the European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič announced an ambitious initiative in this sector that could take the form of an EU Battery Alliance. The Battery Alliance is expected to consider short term aspects like deployment of battery production capacity, investment financing, regulatory and trade issues as well as medium to long term research and innovation priorities necessary for Europe to become a major player in the battery technology sector.

Today's workshop on Future Battery Technologies for Energy Storage targeted in particular post Lithium‐ion battery technologies based on future cell chemistries such as, for example, Sodium-ion, Lithium-metal, Lithium-sulphur, Lithium-air or others, and their positioning vis-à-vis shorter term next generation lithium-ion and solid state technologies.

Why do we need an EU Battery Alliance?

We were delighted to see academia and industry representatives engaging in the debate on why and how Europe should take the battery challenge. Currently, Korea, China, Japan and more recently the United States are dominating the rapidly expanding market of Lithium-ion batteries, pulled by the growing demand of the transport and renewable energy storage sectors. Today no European company competes globally in the large-scale manufacturing of Lithium-ion battery cells. Our automotive sector is one of the most important industrial sectors of Europe, representing 12.6 million jobs. Europe is a global leader with more than 20% of all cars in the world being made in the EU. This success is challenged by the ongoing game-changing transition from fuel cars to electric vehicles. Battery technologies are strategic components of the future electric vehicles value chain and may account for up to 40% of the value of an electric vehicle. A competitive research and industrial ecosystem covering the whole electro-mobility value chain (from battery materials to battery cells and packs and to electric vehicles) is essential to maintain Europe's leadership in the automotive sector.

Battery technologies are also set to play an important role in Europe's energy strategy for reducing our CO2 emissions and mitigating human impact on climate change by improving the exploitation of renewable energies. Europe has many strong actors in this energy sector and is a leader in renewable energy technologies.

Europe's assets for battery technologies

We support and encourage the efforts made for the next generation of ultrahigh performance battery technologies that show high power and high energy density, and high charge rates, while being cost-effective and exhibiting a good lifetime, a radical improvement in safety, low environmental impact and high recyclability. Another challenge we have in front of us is to achieve smart battery technologies with embedded sensing possibilities from the cell to the pack and to the energy system level. Europe has many assets to address these challenges: a critical mass of knowledge and scientific excellence (for instance, in new materials and electro-chemistry); advanced research labs; strong industrial presence in several segments of the battery value chain (e.g. raw and processed materials, battery packs and systems, recycling); and a strong industry in the automotive and energy sectors.

Promising outcome of the workshop

After our discussion with the participants of the workshop today, we are comforted with the view that Europe has all the necessary ingredients for positioning itself in this strategic sector and that a large-scale research initiative on next generation battery technologies could accelerate their emergence and their take-up by EU industry. Building on the promising outcome of this workshop and other actions, of a shorter time horizon nature taken in the context of the European Battery Alliance, we encourage all the research actors of Europe – academia, Research & Technology Organisations and industry – to work further together in order to define, within the next few months, an ambitious research initiative focusing on the main research challenges and priorities to address and deliver a commonly agreed long term research agenda as foreseen in our Strategic Transport Research and Innovation agenda STRIA.