European firms will have the capacity to supply all the lithium-ion batteries needed for the continent's automakers by 2025 as they ramp up electric vehicle output to meet strict pollution limits, EU officials said Friday.
The bloc is banking on its European Battery Alliance, launched in 2017, to reduce its reliance on batteries and other technologies imported from the US or Asia while pursuing its Green Deal goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
"We expect that we will be able to cover all the industrial needs of our car manufacturers when it comes to batteries already by 2025," EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said at a press conference broadcast from Brussels.
"By that time we expect giga-factories in Europe will produce between seven to eight million batteries... so even more than what are the current plans for manufacturers of EVs by that time," he said.
Sefcovic spoke alongside Thierry Breton, the EU's internal markets commissioner, after talks on the battery alliance with German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Le Maire acknowledged that meeting the goal would require massive training programmes to produce enough skilled workers for Europe to catch up with rival battery makers.
"Our goal is to train and reconvert 800,000 workers between now and 2025 across the entire value chain for electric vehicles," he said by video link from Paris.
"Already we are investing 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in total in 70 projects in 12 member states," he added, to ensure battery autonomy -- including by developing independent supplies of key raw materials such as lithium, nickel and graphite.
"Europe must invest, invest, invest -– This is how it will remain at the level of China the United States," he said.
By next year, the Commission also hopes to adopt strict new environmental standards for batteries, including on material recycling, to fend off imports of cheaper and less sustainable imports that would undermine the EU's efforts.
"I'm sure batteries in Europe will be the greenest and most sustainable, and their performance will be the best in the world," Sefcovic said.
The alliance, sometimes dubbed the "Airbus for batteries," involves dozens of companies including automakers and energy groups that are building production capacity while also vying to create next-generation power sources.
Sefcovic said he would work with the European Investment Bank to leverage additional private money to come up with an additional 50 billion euros to meet the ambitious 2025 goals.
In April, he said, the Commission and private firms will sign an accord to finance "cutting edge" research to the tune of some 900 million euros.