(c) DAF Trucks

Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and industry associations are joining forces in the new Battery Competence Center innovation program. The collaborating parties want to build knowledge and competencies in the field of battery technology and strengthen the competitive position of the Dutch manufacturing industry, the companies announced in a joint press release.

Innovative battery technology is indispensable for the success of the energy transition. The Netherlands has strong players in the mobility sector, such as DAF Trucks, VDL Groep and Damen Shipyards. These companies are fully committed to the electrification of their vehicles and vessels. By joining forces with knowledge institutions and promising startups in the field of battery technology and production processes, the Battery Competence Center wants to start assembling battery packs in the Netherlands, thereby increasing economic opportunities for Dutch Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and startups. Many of the parties involved and innovative startups in battery technology are located in the Brainport Eindhoven region.

Building up battery expertise

The Battery Competence Center partnership bundles knowledge to work on the development of battery packs for buses, trucks and ships. Its partners combine their knowledge to develop and produce battery packs such that the vehicle or vessel becomes better and more competitive. They also work together to increase the purchasing power of the companies involved, making the Netherlands less dependent on foreign suppliers.

The consortium consists of leading companies including DAF Trucks, VDL Group, Damen Shipyards, startup ELEO Technologies, the knowledge institutes TNO and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), the economic development agency Brainport Development and trade associations RAI Automotive Industry NL and Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT).

Developing prototypes

In the Battery Competence Center’s first project, members are working together to develop prototypes of battery packs that can be used by the participating entities in their vehicles and vessels. VDL Groep, for example, will use the Center’s joint expertise to produce battery packs for VDL vehicles. The company has the ambition to build a demo production line where battery packs roll off the belt. “VDL currently uses battery packs for its electric vehicles that are supplied by partners from Asia,” says VDL Groep e-mobility specialist Menno Kleingeld. “To gain more flexibility, assembling vehicle-specific battery packs in house is crucial. To accomplish this, we draw on our knowledge in the field of automated series production lines as well as on our experience as a user of these battery packs. Ideally, in addition to our own battery packs, we will also assemble them for other companies.”

Strengthening their competitive position

DAF Trucks was the first major truck manufacturer to introduce an all-electric truck to the market in 2018. It already has several versions in its product portfolio. Jos Habets, Director of Operations and member of the Board of Directors, says: “In the coming years, the demand for fully or partially electric trucks will only increase. Developments in the field of battery technology are also moving exceptionally fast. By combining the knowledge and experience of fellow companies, knowledge institutions and start-ups in the Battery Competence Center, we will further strengthen our competitive position in the field of electric trucks.”

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“For Damen Shipyards, it is a unique opportunity to apply knowledge from the automotive sector, where electrification is moving faster than in the maritime sector, to the shipping industry,” says Director Group’s Research at Damen Shipyards Peter van Terwisga. Startup ELEO develops battery packs for industrial vehicles such as excavators, forklifts and tractors, among others. The pilot production line from this project will help ELEO, according to founder Jeroen Bleker; “to start producing on a large scale and expand our business internationally.”

“The project is supported by the €2.4 million from the REACT-EU grant program in cooperation with the province,” explains Martijn van Gruijthuijsen, deputy for Economy and Knowledge & Talent Development of the province of North Brabant. “This support, combined with the €2.3 million equity contribution from the participating parties, ensures a solid impact in accelerating and improving battery technology, which will help make our society and economy a little more sustainable.”

Realizing ambitions

The Battery Competence Center wants the Netherlands to take up an important position in the European battery supply chain. The Netherlands already possesses many important competencies in this area. These include the development of complex production processes and machines as well as expertise in the field of thin film technology and plasma chemistry, required to develop new generation battery cells. Its favorable logistics location in Europe and strong automotive and maritime industry are other key success factors. To exploit these opportunities, the Battery Competence Center will continue developing the ecosystem by setting up multiple collaborative projects. It also aims to represent and position the industry in the national and European playing field and maximize knowledge sharing within the network.

Photo: DAF Trucks was the first major truck manufacturer to introduce an all-electric truck to the market in 2018. Photo DAF Trucks.

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