The future of electrification is already here: it’s now time to scale-up battery R&I

By Philippe Jacques , Secretary-General of The Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA)

The extensive growth of electric vehicle fleets is a catalyst for the achievement of climate mitigation targets under the European Green Deal. Battery-driven electric vehicles are slated to shortly become ubiquitous on European roads, taking over fossil fuel powered ones. Simultaneously, other forms of transports, like rail, waterborne and aviation are developing their use-cases for electric drivetrains based on high-performing battery technology.

The stationary storage market is also on the rise, further accelerating sustainability efforts by opening up the market for second life batteries.

Such growth, however, can only be accommodated by a collective and coordinated effort to foster Research and Innovation in the field of batteries; this will lead to new application fields for emerging technologies, and to an upscale of battery production processes in the short-term.

On these grounds, the Batt4EU European Partnership was launched in June 2021 as a specific initiative under Horizon Europe – the European flagship R&I programme – to combine the efforts of the European Commission on the one side, and of the over 180 research and industry partners united under the Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA) on the other.


Building a value chain in Europe

The European Commission is investing a total of 925 million between 2021 and 2027 in battery R&I through the Horizon Europe Batt4EU calls. BEPA members will match this funding with private investments in complementary activities, as well as give official recommendations on which R&I needs should be covered in the Batt4EU calls. Batt4EU covers the entire European battery value chain, with a specific focus on processing raw materials, developing the necessary advanced materials, designing and manufacturing innovative battery cells, and making sure that batteries are safely handled and recycled at the end of their lives.

Inventing here the sustainable batteries of the future will contribute to Europe’s ambition of becoming more independent and making progress towards the proposed targets linked to the sustainable mobility sector.

BEPA is actively looking for new members from under-represented geographical areas (e.g. Central and Eastern Europe) and industries (e.g. raw materials and recycling).


Working together in the European ecosystem

The Batt4EU European Partnership is working hand-in-hand with other European initiatives to ensure successful delivery of results. Making use of the roadmaps published by the ETIP Batteries Europe and the Battery2030+ initiative, Batt4EU will also work together with the Partnerships involved with the mobility sector, like the 2Zero Road Transport, the Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport and Europe’s Rail partnerships, in order to facilitate the integration of batteries in vehicles, ships and trains.

Together with the stakeholders involved in the two Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) dedicated to batteries and other industry partners, Batt4EU intends to establish in Europe by 2030 the best in the world innovation ecosystem to boost a competitive, sustainable, and circular European battery value chain.

Batt4EU will also be working with numerous regional initiatives, transferring the knowledge developed within the Partnership, aiming to drive the transformation towards a carbon-neutral society.


Attracting more people and investments

The shift towards electrification of the mobility sector is generating great challenges for Europe, too. In the context of significant shift will lead to a massive creation of jobs and a challenging re-skilling exercise.

According to the European Battery Alliance, 3 to 4 million of new jobs are expected to have been generated by 2025, and 800 000 jobs will need to be reskilled or upskilled.

In this perspective, a specific set of skills and experience will be required with a specific focus on battery production and there is, therefore, an urgent need to bolster re-/-up skilling efforts that can address the skills gap.

On another note, while the European research community is often portrayed among the strongest at global scale, shaping knowledge and innovative ideas into “business” seems toilsome. Accelerating the uptake of promising technologies currently under development becomes paramount. Addressing the so-called valley of death, also at a more political level, remains one of the top priorities, to ensure a complete and smooth transition.

To tackle these challenges, BEPA will soon launch two taskforces dedicated to innovation uptake and education, and skill development. On the one hand, BEPA will pave the way for projects to cross the “valley-of-death” in coordination with already existing organisations, including EIT InnoEnergy, EIT Raw Materials, the EIC and the EIB. On the other hand, BEPA will strive to boost the upcoming and massive creation of jobs and skills by connecting with relevant initiatives (e.g. the EBA battery academy) and building a detailed action plan that supports education and skill development for battery workers.


It’s time to power up

Under the context of the European Green Deal, the role of batteries is now well acknowledged: they are key technologies that support a zero-emission mobility and enable the integration of renewables in the power grid.

It will be vital to reinforce R&I in the European battery landscape in order to support industrial and political ambitions in Europe. Coordination and cooperation are the key words. All European battery stakeholders are therefore invited to join BEPA in order to help boosting a competitive, sustainable and circular battery value chain in Europe.