Storing energy is the topic of the day. And with it lithium-ion battery cells, which are indispensable from tiny to enormous, whether for mobile phones, e-mobiles or stationary storage of renewable energies. On the Energieküste, in Itzehoe, a highlight of this high-tech industry shines with CUSTOMCELLS®. The company, which was founded in 2012 as a spin-off of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT, is now the European market leader in the development of special lithium-ion battery cells and electrode production and is also one of the leading players worldwide.
The company's tenth birthday is marked by expansion and future technologies. With investments amounting to several million euros, the massive expansion of development and production capacities in Itzehoe has just been completed. "We want to combine the highest quality and flexibility at the cutting edge of research, both in prototyping and series production," says Torge Thönnessen, co-founder and managing director of CUSTOMCELLS®. "2022 will be the year of battery cell technology - and we are ready for it". A research and development unit for High Throughput Experimentation (HTE) is newly installed. "This will enable us to identify new materials even faster and thus drive the development of specific battery cells for our customers," says Leopold König, co-founder and CEO of CUSTOMCELLS®.
Customised from micro to giga
Optimal solutions for customer-specific requirements are the domain of the storage experts; they offer the development and production of electrodes, electrolytes, battery cells and battery modules for a wide range of industries and sectors. The highly specialised team has now grown to 150 employees and is set to expand by another 30 % in 2022. About a third currently operates one of the most modern cell production lines in Europe at the Tübingen site. Here, the team is increasingly working on battery cells for electric flying, for example drones or air taxis. Lilium, too, relies on high-performance batteries from CUSTOMCELLS® for its electrically powered 7-seater "Lilium Jet", which enable more power and faster charging.
Research for the energy turnaround
CUSTOMCELLS® lithium-ion technology is used in medical technology, the maritime industry and the automotive industry, among others. The company has already industrialised 14 electrode technologies, keeps over 250 raw materials in stock and has state-of-the-art electrode and cell production machines. But Thönnessen and König are not in the habit of resting on their laurels. So since the beginning of the year, a digitalisation team has been working on automated data processing and artificial intelligence (AI) in battery cell production. "Whether it's design, cell sample series or production start-up including in-house or external set-up of micro and gigafactories - our know-how makes us the natural partner in a world that is undergoing radical change," says Torge Thönnessen.
Focus on accumulators on the road
The battery makers are particularly focused on lithium-ion technology for Germany's favourite "child". Already 6 of the top 10 car manufacturers worldwide and 6 of the top 10 automotive suppliers in Germany are CUSTOMCELLS® customers.
"We are considered a 'game changer' in the field of e-mobility," says Leopold König. "Our goal is to develop a battery technology that enables fast charging analogous to a conventional fuel stop of less than ten minutes." In the joint project Power400, CUSTOMCELLS® is working closely with research institutions and universities. A joint venture with Porsche AG will also significantly accelerate the development of high-performance cells.
Itzehoe region: "High-tech & joie de vivre in the north".
Numerous new employees will be needed on the Energieküste to implement the many goals. The slogan of the Itzehoe region can be helpful here. And the philosophy of CUSTOMCELLS®. Torge Thönnessen: "In 2022, we will continue to place people and holistic, sustainable management at the centre of our further growth in Germany. CUSTOMCELLS® - Powered by people."