Metals and batteries for electric vehicles: Finland, an example for France

In La Tribune 20/04/2021

In the field of batteries for electric vehicles, Finland can do what France cannot, because Helsinki has an advantage, the Finnish Minerals Group (FMG). FMG is a state-owned company and, in a much more modest way, the equivalent of a French Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM), but with wings.

FMG’s central mission is to maximize the value of Finnish mineral resources. As a shareholder, it manages the state’s holdings in Finnish-based mining companies, but also in downstream companies that consume these minerals, notably those in the lithium-ion battery industry and their future recycling.

Facilitating links between miners, manufacturers and constructors

In nine years’ time, in 2030, 80% of European car sales are expected to be electric. It is in this context that FMG’s strategy must be seen: to facilitate links between miners, cathode, cell and battery manufacturers and carmakers such as Norilsk Nickel, BASF, Johnson Matthey, Northvol and Volkswagen; to establish complementarities between the local mining industry and neighboring countries, since the Finnish metallurgical and mining industry is close to the German and Polish gigafactories via the Baltic Sea and is only 250 kilometers from the Swedish Northvolt plant in Skelleftea via the port of Vaasa. This plant will eventually equip 3 million electric vehicles, including those of the German company Volkswagen.

Volkswagen is the only manufacturer on the continent with a clear and comprehensive electric strategy. The German brand wants to manufacture its own batteries in-house, because it foresees a giant bottleneck in the manufacture of battery cells, not because of a lack of raw materials, but because of a shortage of factories. It will therefore own 6 gygafactories in Europe with 40 GWH each by 2030. Northvolt is already its partner for at least 80 GWh and the other 4 plants will be shared with other partners, probably Asian.

The transformation of the Baltic Sea

To succeed, Finland, like France, has mining resources, but Helsinki is more familiar with their extent and richness; like France, it has excellent knowledge of pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy, and materials chemistry, but it uses them in its strategic battery plan; like France, it has low-cost electricity, but it consumes it in its electric car ecosystem, which it shares with its neighbors; like France, it has business intelligence, but it directs it according to its plan.

Attracted, on the one hand, by an smart exploitation of local natural mineral resources and, on the other hand, by decarbonized nuclear and hydraulic electricity, industries are transforming the Baltic Sea into the future European ecosystem of batteries for electric vehicles.