The next electric-car battery champion could be European

And then there is Elon Musk. Tesla is the biggest EV maker, selling about half-a-million…

And then there is Elon Musk. Tesla is the biggest EV maker, selling about half-a-million cars last year, and plans to assemble Model Ys and batteries in Germany to juice its European expansion.

Musk’s operations are becoming a magnet for EV suppliers and triggering a local industrial renaissance. That expertise is daunting for competitors, said Isobel Sheldon, chief strategy officer for Britishvolt. “Tesla is the biggest thorn in the side for the European cell-manufacturing base,” she said.

When it comes to the startups, Northvolt — founded by former Tesla executives — is years ahead of rivals.The company has a $14 billion supply deal with VW and another with BMW, and is preparing to starting priducing cells by year’s end at its Skelleftea site. Northvolt wants to grab 25 percent of Europe’s battery market by 2030, CEO and founder Peter Carlsson has said.

That was before the VW offensive.

Automakers “are putting more and more efforts behind their electrification plans and have revised their battery needs upwards,” said Jesper Wigardt, a Northvolt spokesman. “We will need to evaluate our target continuously.”

Britishvolt, which has Ford’s former European vice president of product development, Joe Bakaj, as an advisor, plans to start building a 2.6 billion-pound ($3.6 billion) factory in northeast England later this year. The site will use hydropower from Norway and could be online by 2023. The Blyth-based startup is in talks with EV makers in the UK, EU, U.S. and Japan, she said without elaborating.

Further behind — but flush with public funds for development – is a joint venture between Stellantis and oil giant Total. Instead of starting from scratch, ACC plans to hasten expansion by producing batteries at two former car-parts plants.

“Europe is not too late,” said Corniou, the SIA consultant. “The market will be colossal, and there’s a need for competitive technology.”