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Trees May Help Power Your Next Electric Car – Here Is How

A Swedish-Finnish commercial partnership might be the first step toward commercially feasible wood-derived batteries for electric vehicles.

Swedish battery maker Northvolt has signed a joint development agreement with Swedish-Finnish paper products company Stora Enso. The agreement describes how the pair will work to make batteries made with lignin, a resource that can be abundantly accessed by Stora Enso easily.

Stora Enso states that it possesses the technology that can change lignin into a hard-carbon material called Lignode. It will be used as the anode material in the new batteries.

The main reason for this partnership is that it would mean Northvolt’s device would be the world’s first battery featuring an anode entirely sourced from European raw materials.

“[Lignode] will secure the strategic European supply of anode raw material, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage,” Hagelberg said. Trees felled to make Lignode come from sustainably managed forests, the companies said in their joint statement.

Stora Enso said its Lignode production is based out of its Sunila facility in Finland, which has a production capacity of 50,000 tons/year. Northvolt’s role in the partnership will involve battery cell design, production process development, and scaling of the new technology.

Volkswagen was a notable investor in Northvolt’s recent $1.1 billion funding round, and Northvolt said the investment would go toward “developing manufacturing capacity to deliver on $55 billion in orders from key customers, including BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volvo Cars, and Volkswagen Group.”

Earlier this year, Northvolt bought a former Stora Enso paper factory in Borlänge, Sweden, which it aims to convert into a facility for manufacturing battery cells. It is supposed to be entirely operational in 2024, Northvolt said it will employ 1,000 people, use 100 percent clean, local energy, and produce more than 100GWh of cathode material every year.

Stora Enso’s head of innovation, Mikael Hannus, told Reuters in 2017 that commercial production of lignin-based products was still 5-10 years away, meaning that 2022 was the earliest he predicted for product availability.