Lignin is a polymer found in the cell walls of plants that grow on land. This is the substance that gives trees, which contain up to 30% lignin, their strength. It is also one of the largest renewable sources of carbon. Northvolt, the Swedish battery maker, has a vital interest in sourcing more of the raw materials it needs locally, as companies everywhere are finding that over-reliance on remote suppliers can lead to major supply chain disruptions.
Stora Enso is a company based in Finland (that’s next door to Sweden, for those of you who were sick that day teaching world geography at school). It says that it is the largest private forest owner in the world. Its business is focused on providing the global community with renewable products for packaging, biomaterials, wood structures and paper. “We believe that anything made from fossil materials today can be made from wood tomorrow,” the company says.
In a press release this week, Northvolt and Stora Enso say they are working together to create sustainable batteries using solid carbon based on lignin, made from renewable wood from northern forests. The aim is to develop the world’s first industrialized battery with an anode entirely sourced from European raw materials, reducing both carbon footprint and cost.
“Co-developing batteries with Northvolt marks a step in our journey to serve the rapidly growing battery market with renewable anode materials made from trees. Lignode, our solid lignin-based carbon, will provide strategic European anode feedstock supplies, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage,” says Johanna Hagelberg, Head of Biomaterials at Stora Enso.
Stora Enso will supply Lignode obtained from its sustainably managed forests, while Northvolt will be responsible for the design, development of the production process and the expansion of the Lignode-based technology.
“Through this partnership, we are exploring a new source of sustainable raw materials and expanding the European battery value chain, as well as developing less expensive battery chemistry. This is an exciting demonstration of how our commitment to a sustainable battery industry goes hand in hand with creating a positive impact on both society and value,” says Emma Nerenheim, Northvolt’s Chief Environmental Officer.
Stora Enso has set up a pilot plant for the production of bio-based carbon materials located at its production site in Sunil, Finland, where it has been commercially producing lignin since 2015. Today, the annual production capacity of lignin is 50,000 tons, which makes the company the largest producer of kraft lignin in the world.
In accordance with CNBC, companies such as Volvo Cars, BMW and Volkswagen have placed product orders worth more than $55 billion with Northvolt, whose first battery factory has begun supplying battery cells to European customers. Volkswagen was part of Northvolt’s recent $1.1 billion funding round.
Making electric vehicle batteries from sustainable, locally sourced materials is great news for those of us who welcome the electric vehicle revolution.
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