Luxury sports car manufacturer Porsche AG is going into the battery business. The automaker said Monday it plans to open a new factory that will produce high-performance cells through a joint venture with lithium-ion battery developer Customcells.
Porsche invested in “the high double-digit millions” in the new joint venture, dubbed Cellforce Group GmbH, executive board member Michael Steiner told reporters in a media briefing ahead of the announcement. The factory also benefited from a €60 million ($71.4 million) investment from the German government and the state of Baden-Württemberg, where it will be located. Chemical company BASF SE was selected to supply the cathode materials.
The batteries will use silicon as the anode material, which Porsche says will significantly boost the energy density and their capacity to withstand high temperatures — both important variables for racing cars, which must be recharged quickly, but challenging in battery production (batteries don’t tend to like getting very hot).
For that reason, the factory will be small-scale, at least compared to other automakers such as the 35 gigawatt-hour “gigafactory” capacity at the Tesla and Panasonic joint facility in Sparks, Nevada or even its parent company VW’s plan to bring 240 GwH of production to Europe by 2030. Porsche and Customcells’ aim is an annual capacity of 100 megawatt-hours, or around enough batteries for 1,000 vehicles, starting in 2024. The initial workforce is expected to grow from around 13 people to up to 80 by 2025.
The automaker has no plans to scale the technology for use in Porsche’s more mainstream lineup of vehicles, Steiner said, though he noted that there may be a chance for higher volume in the future if the company sees a potential to bring down production costs. “In this market, we are looking for special purpose cells for high-end cars and motorsports, and this is not available in the market today,” he said.
It may be a challenge to scale this technology to passenger vehicles. The silicon anode-based cell chemistry has not shown the capacity to function in very cold conditions or to remain stable over many charging cycles, Porsche said in a statement. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a Porsche vehicle benefited from technology developed for the race track: its leading electric model Taycan borrowed many of its technical features from the Porsche 919 Hybrid racing car.
Although the first vehicles to use these batteries will be Porsche-made, Steiner said the technology will be made available to other brands in the Volkswagen Group, like Lamborghini or Bugatti.
“The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future,” Porsche CEO Oliver Blume said in a statement Monday. “This joint venture allows us to position ourselves at the forefront of global competition in developing the most powerful battery cell and make it the link between the unmistakable Porsche driving experience and sustainability. This is how we shape the future of the sports car.”