CEZ aims to decide by year-end on ‘gigafactory’ consortium

Electric car lithium battery pack (Stock Image)

Czech power producer CEZ aims to decide by year-end on the make-up of a consortium to build a “gigafactory” to make auto batteries, a vital element in securing the future of the Czech Republic’s largest manufacturing sector.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday at a cement plant where the processing of lithium ore is being researched, CEZ chief Daniel Benes said the company was in talks with four partners, all from Asia, for the factory, which is likely to cost more than $2 billion.

The government has been keen to create a battery plant as the auto sector transitions away from petrol engines, and is also hoping to start lithium mining from deposits on the north-western border with Germany.

Seventy percent state-owned CEZ has taken control of a firm developing and assessing that project.

In the car industry, CEZ was in talks with Volkswagen AG’s Skoda Auto subsidiary, Benes said, and did not mention any other potential car sector partners.

Volkswagen would bring in its own battery partner, Benes said.

“We would like to make a final decision on the consortium by the end of the year,” Benes told reporters.

The government has said it was in talks with Volkswagen and South Korea’s LG. Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek said on Wednesday that the government was negotiating with up to five potential partners.

CEZ also plans to make a decision on lithium mining in 2023, Benes said, which would supply the battery plant.

The country is one of the locations that Volkswagen is considering for one of six battery cell plants it aims to build in Europe by 2030.

A VW executive said last month the group was in discussions on a plant in central Europe but no decision had been taken yet.

(By Jan Lopatka; Editing by David Holmes)


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