One of the objectives set out in the Volkswagen Group roadmap for 2030 is to have six battery cell factories in Europe with a total capacity of 240 gigawatt hours (GWh), so that it can supply the demand for electric cars from its brands in the Old Continent. The Sagunto (Valencia) gigafactory will be the second of these facilities after the German one in Salzgitter (and another shared with the Swedish company Northvolt), with an initial target of 40 Gwh, although the group assures that a forecast has been made to equip it 50% more capacity if necessary. “We will start with a capacity of 40 gigawatts, but we will be able to expand to 60 in the future if we need more,” Thomass Schmall, president of the supervisory board of PowerCo, the German consortium company that will be in charge of the business, told EL PAÍS. of the batteries.
Schmall’s statement comes at a time of some uncertainty about Volkswagen’s plan, after the Financial Times published that the pending gigafactories in Europe were being held back by competition from North America, which has put large subsidies on the table through the Law Inflation Reduction Program to attract investment. For example, the choice of where to build the factory in Eastern Europe has been delayed. “We have to wait until there is clarity in the financing scheme and possible public aid”, stresses the executive, who emphasizes above all the lack of clarity of the new European aid scheme: “We cannot decide on another location in Europe without knowing the framework of conditions and what the EU will decide about it”.
It is in this context that Sagunto’s role can win integers ahead of schedule. “It hasn’t been decided yet” on the expansion of the facilities, says Schmall, but affirms that the chosen location “offers the opportunity to do so”. The final decision “mainly depends on the price of energy, but it is a good chance that the story continues beyond the current 40 GWh plan.” At the moment, in the absence of the official act in which this Friday the president of PowerCo will meet in Sagunto with the president of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, the Valencian, Ximo Puig, and that of Seat, Wayne Griffiths, the idea is that the gigafactory between in operation in 2025 with the manufacture of pre-series batteries, the start of series production begins in 2026 and in 2027 the maximum capacity will be reached -“perhaps sooner”, points out the manager-, with a 24-hour activity seven days a week.
In total, the facilities will employ 3,000 people, although the group estimates an impact on employment in the area of between 20,000 and 30,000 people.
“The energy mix in Spain plays in favor of producing battery cells. You have wind and sun and you don’t depend on gas, so the government was able to offer a competitive price for energy. We only decided on a new location or factory because of its competitiveness”, explains the head of PowerCo, a giant that expects to earn 20,000 million a year when it has developed its current business plan. In his opinion, “it was a smart decision by the Spanish government” to use the funds from the European transformation plan for the Spanish plant, which foresees that “it will become one of the most competitive battery cell factories in Europe” .
Regarding the territorial competition that took place in Spain to keep the facilities, he points out that more than 100 factors were taken into account to decide the place where close to 3,000 million euros will be invested, financed in part with funds from the PERTE of the electric vehicle and subsidies autonomous. Initially, 40 different locations competed for it, a list that was gradually reduced to a short list of four candidates. “I won’t say all four,” Schmall replies when he is asked. Yes, he confirms that the two finalists were Sagunto and Extremadura (the other two were predictably Aragon and Catalonia). “The decisive factor was the operational costs, because Sagunto is close to the port and logistics with our car factories is easier,” he says, referring to the Landaben (Pamplona) and Martorell (Barcelona) plants, which from 2025 should start making electric vehicles.
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