PEM Warns: "Industrial Location and Transport Transition at Stake"

  Collage of a battery, an electric vehicle, and scissors cutting money Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University | phonlamaiphoto | nevodka.com | M. Schuppich | Stock Adobe
16/01/2024

The Chair of Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components (PEM) of RWTH Aachen University has reacted with great concern to the German government's planned cuts to the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF) and highlighted the consequences for Germany as a research and industrial location. "Cutting 75% of battery research funding will have a massive impact on the training of students and doctoral candidates, meaning that the German skills shortage will increase dramatically in this area too," says PEM Management Member Professor Heiner Heimes. Previously, the Competence Network Lithium-Ion Batteries (KLiB) had already equated the plans with "Germany pulling out of battery research."

  Portrait of PEM Professors Achim Kampker (left) and Heiner Heimes Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University | projektelf

"Serious impact on competitiveness"

According to a study by the UK portal 'Verdict', jobs in the battery sector are already the most difficult to fill in the technology industry. In Germany, this is exemplified by the fact that the Volkswagen subsidiary PowerCo wants to recruit a total of 20,000 skilled workers for battery production by 2030 but has only been able to fill around 1,000 positions so far, as was recently announced. "If 156 million euros in funding is lost this year alone, the impact on the competitiveness of key German industries will be serious," says Heimes. In funded research projects, universities and companies jointly bring significant product and process innovations to life. Industry already contributes up to 50% to such projects. "The actual loss of investment in battery research will be significantly higher as a result – and the incentive for further innovations will decrease," says Heimes.

Industry already struggling with high taxes and energy prices

One focus of battery research is currently on energy-efficient and resource-saving production processes such as dry coating or laser drying. "Both are particularly promising production technologies for saving energy and costs in the manufacture of battery cells," says PEM Director Professor Achim Kampker. "Next up is to bring innovations like these to series maturity. If there are no innovations of our own, German battery industry will lose ground in global competition." Meanwhile, the industry is facing massive challenges even without the planned cuts: "High taxes and energy prices in Germany as well as attractive subsidies in the USA due to the IRA are motivating companies to relocate their production facilities abroad," says Heimes.

Around 60 battery gigafactories in Europe, 150 in Asia

Thanks to strong participation from Germany, Europe has recently developed into a promising location for battery production which is currently dominated by Asian companies such as CATL, LG, and BYD. According to PEM information, more than 60 gigafactories are currently planned in Europe. In North America, there are just under 50 – compared to more than 150 in Asia. "Abandoning KTF measures for the further development of electric mobility ultimately puts the hard-earned transport transition at risk," says Kampker.