FThe Volkswagen Group has recruited more executives from rivals in the tech and automotive industries for the billion-dollar expansion of its battery business. Among others, Apple’s head of battery development, Soonho Ahn, hires the Wolfsburg-based company. It is not yet clear when exactly the South Korean will start with the largest European vehicle manufacturer. VW confirmed the top personnel on Thursday upon request. When it comes to competitor BMW, the Lower Saxony companies are also fishing for experts. Jörg Hoffmann is to come from there, most recently specialized in solid cell technology. The manager magazine had previously reported on the change.
Ahn’s commitment, in particular, will attract attention in both the IT and automotive industries. VW CEO Herbert Diess sees the American and Asian technology giants as essentially the most important competitors for the next few years in the further networking of mobility and autonomous driving. But the further optimization of battery technology and the construction of our own cell plants are also considered crucial competencies – especially in the race with Tesla. In September, Volkswagen had just hired Sebastian Wolf from the Chinese battery cell manufacturer Farasis.
In the case of Apple, there is also the fact that its own car project “Titan”, shrouded in secrecy, is putting traditional manufacturers under pressure. The Californians are also said to have their eyes on the South Korean suppliers Kia and Hyundai, who could support them in the further development of an “iCar”. Ahn already worked in leading roles at Samsung and LG, among others.
Volkswagen initially plans to build six of its own battery cell factories in Europe. In addition to Salzgitter, Skellefteå has already been set in northern Sweden, and a third location in Spain has good prospects. Works councils also advocate another German cell plant. According to industry circles, Saxony and Lower Saxony should also be in the running, and locations in Eastern Europe are also being examined. VW cooperates with partners such as Northvolt from Sweden and Gotion from China.
In the currently dominant battery technology, lithium ions take over the charge transport between the cell electrodes. However, like other battery raw materials, the alkali metal is often scarce and must first be extracted in a water and energy-intensive manner. In solid-state batteries, for example, ceramic elements are used between the poles. The goals are higher ranges and faster loading. In the solid sector, VW has invested in the US company Quantumscape – a possible cell plant in Salzgitter is also being considered here. An IPO of the battery division is a conceivable option for further financing.