Northvolt Shows Us Its First Battery. Is It the Volkswagen Unified Cell?

Northvolt's first lithium-ion cell produced in Skelleftea: is it Volkswagen's unified cell? 13 photos
Photo: Northvolt
Northvolt's Skelleftea plant, in SwedenNorthvolt's first lithium-ion cell produced in Skelleftea: is it Volkswagen's unified cell?Volkswagen Unified CellsVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellsVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified CellVolkswagen Unified Cell
Northvolt proudly revealed on December 29 what it says is the first lithium-ion battery “fully designed, developed, and assembled at a gigafactory by a homegrown European battery company.” Although it is indeed all this, it could also be the first unified cell Volkswagen intends to put in its EVs.
If you do not remember what the unified cell is, Volkswagen conceived it as a prismatic platform for different chemistries. In other words, the German carmaker applied the modular architecture principle to batteries, which should help it reach a massive production scale with a standard cell format.

Volkswagen mentioned three primary chemistries for these cells: LFP (lithium iron phosphate, for entry-level vehicles), ternary batteries with high-manganese (for high-volume EVs), and high-nickel (for premium applications). When solid-state batteries are available, the unified cell will also work with it.

Northvolt states that its first cell is also prismatic, and the picture it disclosed shows it quite clearly. However, the unified cell looks longer and bigger than the battery Northvolt just revealed. At the Volkswagen Power Day, the German automaker presented images of a prototype, and it also apparently had smaller poles.

The explanation is that Northvolt has $30 billion worth of contracts with BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volkswagen, Volvo Cars, and Polestar for “varying formats.” In other words, Northvolt’s first cell may be one it will sell for one of these other car companies. Volkswagen should be the only one to get the unified cell unless it is willing to license its use to other automakers.

Although Volkswagen said in June that production at Skellefteå would begin only in 2023, the Swedish cell manufacturer apparently anticipated the plans: commercial deliveries will start in 2022. Either that or the making of other cell formats will start this year while Northvolt and Volkswagen finish unified cell development.

Whatever the answer is, Northvolt showed it is getting ready fast to help Volkswagen and the other automakers it has a contract with to achieve their electrification goals. With a 60-GWh capacity and $30 billion in deals to honor, that is probably a relief for those counting on those cells, unified or not.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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