VW sees major battery supply issue without additional gigafactories

Otherwise, plans to turn the world electric are going to encounter some hiccups.


If automakers from around the world want to go electric at the same time, we're going to have to figure out where to get all those batteries.

In order to keep up with anticipated demand, humanity will need to build the equivalent of more than 40 Tesla gigafactories by 2025, Automotive News reports, citing estimates from Volkswagen Group. This projection is actually higher than it was 13 months ago, according to Ulrich Eichhorn, VW's head of R&D and the man in charge of that forecast.

"What is this, a Gigafactory for ants?"

Actually, it is, because it's just a scale model of the final design.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Volkswagen assumes that 25 percent of its sales volume in 2025 will come from battery-electric vehicles, the majority (if not all) of which rely on lithium ion battery cells. VW estimates that it will need a supply of approximately 150 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2025, enough capacity to power a single 60-watt lightbulb for 285,000 years.

If each battery factory were capable of producing 35 gigawatt-hours per year, VW alone would require five facilities. Extrapolate those needs across the global automotive industry, as many players are trying to get sizable quantities of electric cars on the road by that time, and you're going to need dozens of these production facilities. The total supply would be in excess of 1.5 terawatt-hours.

The desire for large quantities of battery cells is what drove Tesla to build the first Gigafactory, a collaborative effort with Panasonic that will supply the batteries for Tesla's upcoming Model 3. The name was obviously clever enough to morph into a common noun rather quickly.

Of course, building all of these facilities would assume that the industry would continue using lithium ion batteries for the foreseeable future. For now, they're the best bet when longevity and capacity are taken into account. But both Bosch and Volkswagen told Automotive News that their two companies are hard at work on the next generation of electric-vehicle battery technology, although any innovations could be 15 or more years away.

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