To expand its battery business, Volkswagen has poached other executives from the tech and automotive industries, including Apple’s head of battery development, Soonho Ahn. It is not yet clear when exactly the South Korean will start working for the largest European vehicle manufacturer. Volkswagen confirmed the top personnel on request today, Thursday. Jörg Hoffmann, who recently specialized in solid-state cell technology, is said to come from competitor BMW.
Above all, Ahn’s commitment will cause a stir in both the IT and automotive industries. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess sees the American and Asian technology giants as essentially the most important competitors for the next few years in the further networking of mobility and autonomous driving. But the further optimization of battery technology and the construction of our own cell plants are also considered crucial competencies – especially in the race with Tesla. In September, Volkswagen had just hired Sebastian Wolf from the Chinese battery cell manufacturer Farasis.
In the case of Apple, there is also the fact that its own car project “Titan”, which is shrouded in secrecy, is putting traditional manufacturers under pressure. The Californians are also said to have their eyes on the South Korean suppliers Kia and Hyundai, who could support them in the further development of an “iCar”. Ahn already worked in leading roles at Samsung and LG, among others.
Six own battery cell factories in Europe
Volkswagen initially plans to build six of its own battery cell factories in Europe. In addition to Salzgitter, Skellefteå has already been set in northern Sweden, and a third location in Spain has good prospects. Works councils also advocate another German cell plant. According to industry circles, Saxony and Lower Saxony should also be in the running, and locations in Eastern Europe are also being examined. VW cooperates with partners such as Northvolt from Sweden and Gotion from China.
In the currently dominant battery technology, lithium ions take over the charge transport between the cell electrodes. However, like other battery raw materials, the alkali metal is often scarce and must first be extracted in a water and energy-intensive manner. In solid-state batteries, for example, ceramic elements are used between the poles.
The goals are higher ranges and faster loading. In the solid matter sector, Volkswagen has invested in the US company Quantumscape – a possible cell plant in Salzgitter is also being considered here. An IPO of the battery division is a conceivable option for further financing.