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An Elon Musk disciple is planning to build a battery gigafactory in Sweden

A nickel mine in Finland.
Reuters/Kimmo Rauatmaa/Lehtikuva
Finland’s nickel mines could prove useful.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A massive new factory could be producing lithium-ion batteries, the energy source for electric cars, in Europe by 2020, if plans for a Nordic “gigafactory” come to fruition.

Peter Carlsson and Paolo Cerruti, both ex-executives for Tesla, the electric car pioneer owned by Elon Musk, today announced (link in Swedish) that they plan to build a $4 billion factory to manufacture the batteries, most likely in Sweden but possibly in Finland.

Musk himself is in the middle of building a giant battery factory in the Nevada desert. That factory is to produce 35 gigawatt hours of lithium-ion batteries per year when it’s completed in 2018.

So far there’s been nothing to match the plans elsewhere and certainly nothing in Europe. Companies based in South Korea, Japan, and China are the current market leaders in lithium-ion battery production.

Carlsson and Cerrutri’s company, Northvolt, wants to match the Tesla gigafactory output. Northolt so far has obtained inancing from Vattenfall, Sweden’s state-owned utility, Swedish conglomerate Stena, and the Swedish Energy Agency, reports the Financial Times (paywall). Carlsson told the FT that there is “tremendous interest” in the $4 billion factory, but didn’t say how the project would be financed.

A Nordic base could help the project source much of its energy from renewables, and provide access to raw materials. Cobalt and nickel are both mined in Finland, and the region has been pioneering in low carbon energy from wind, hydro, and geothermal sources.