A new European battery business based in Norway could by launched by Japanese electronics group Panasonic and Norwegian groups Equinor and Norsk Hydro after the trio opened talks on a potential link-up.

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The companies signed a strategic partnership “to assess the market for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and mature the business case for a green battery business located in Norway”, Equinor said on Wednesday.

The potential new battery group would be based on Panasonic’s own lithium-ion technology and would “target the European market for electric vehicles and other applications”.

Norway is a global pacesetter in the take-up of electric vehicles, but the market is set to expand rapidly across Europe as more nations phase out petrol and diesel vehicles as part of net-zero strategies — the UK this week brought forward its own target to ban new sales to 2030.

The new venture would also apparently look beyond EVs to the wider market for battery storage systems to support growing renewable energy shares of power networks.

For Equinor, a move into batteries would mark another decisive shift into the power sector by the Norwegian offshore oil and gas group that is already a player in offshore wind and solar as part of a wider decarbonisation strategy.

Al Cook, executive vice president of global strategy and business development, said: “The creation of this world-class battery partnership demonstrates Equinor’s ambition to become a broad energy company.

“We believe that battery storage will play an increasingly important role in bringing energy systems to net-zero emissions. By pooling our different areas of energy expertise, our companies will seek to create a battery business that is profitable, scalable and sustainable.”

Panasonic said joining Equinor and Hydro — one of the world’s largest aluminium producers — allowed it to link with “strong global players, to potentially pave way for a robust and sustainable battery business in Norway”.

The three expect to reach preliminary conclusions over the business potential in mid-2021.

Any business launched by the three would join a growing roster of major European battery ventures planning so called ‘gigafactories’ that includes Sweden-based Northvolt, which is backed by VW and Goldman Sachs, and a link between French giants Total and PSA.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's sister renewable energy publication Recharge on 18 November, 2020.)