VW bets on battery factory for electric car dominance

Scandal-hit car giant Volkswagen is set to sink huge sums into building a factory for batteries to power its future electric cars, German media reported on Friday.

VW bets on battery factory for electric car dominance
A VW logo is seen in front of a plugged-in electric car. Photo: DPA

Inside sources at VW told DPA that the new site could be built at Salzgitter, Lower Saxony – just 50 kilometres from company HQ in Wolfsburg and already the home of an engine factory.

Business daily Handelsblatt had previously reported that the carmaker wants to remain independent of Asian battery builders by keeping the critical components under its own roof.

But a spokesman for the company refused to confirm the anonymous reports.

“We've brought electro-mobility into the centre of the firm and built up wide-ranging skills,” he said, adding that VW aimed to be the market leader in electric cars by 2018.

Tesla leads the charge

Batteries are the key technology to building commercially successful electric cars, as they're the most expensive component and the limiting factor in a vehicle's range.

“In my opinion we need to build batteries in Germany. That's the core technology of electric transport,” VW brand chief Herbert Diess said in November 2015.

German manufacturers are eager to avoid dependence on Asian manufacturers or being overtaken by car industry newcomer Tesla, founded by Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk.

And workers' representatives want to make sure that jobs aren't lost here as electric cars become a larger share of manufacturers' output.

Tesla is currently building the world's largest battery factory in the USA in collaboration with Panasonic.

Industry observers saw signs that the German federal government shares the auto industry's concerns about Tesla when state aid for e-car buyers was limited to vehicles costing less than €60,000 – considerably less than the price of one of Musk's motors.

Making a bigger commitment to electric cars is also good publicity for Volkswagen after months of scandal over emissions cheating.

The company has had to set aside billions of Euros in anticipation of fines and compensation payouts after building so-called “defeat devices” – which change an engine's emissions profile to look less polluting under test conditions – into millions of vehicles sold around the world.

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen: where Germany's two great passions are united

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Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium

At least two people were hospitalised Tuesday after a Greenpeace activist crash-landed on the pitch before the Germany-France match at Euro 2020 when his powered parachute microlight struck spidercam cables at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium
The activist lands on the turf of the Allianz Arena. credit: dpa | Christian Charisius

The pilot flew over the pitch just before kick-off in the Group F clash with “Kick out oil” written on the canopy of his parachute.

However, when the pilot hit television cables above the pitch, it knocked his microlight off balance and he landed on the turf after clipping one of the stands, where the casualties happened.

The activist was arrested soon after landing.

A Munich police spokesman told AFP that at least two people suffered head injuries and “both had to be taken to hospital, we don’t know yet how serious the injuries are”.

The police spokesman said the activist appears to have escaped injury, but “we are considering various criminal charges. Munich police has zero understanding for political actions that put lives at risk”.

UEFA also slammed the botched stunt.

“This inconsiderate act – which could have had very serious consequences for a huge number of people attending – caused injuries to several people attending the game who are now in hospital and law authorities will take the necessary action,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The parachutist above the stadium. Photo: dpa | Matthias Balk

“The staging of the match was fortunately not impacted by such a reckless and dangerous action, but several people were injured nonetheless.”

The stunt was a protest against German car manufacturer Volkswagen, one of the sponsors of the European Championship, Greenpeace explained in a Twitter post.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions,” said UEFA.

Greenpeace said they regretted any harm caused.

“This protest was never intended to disrupt the game or hurt people,” read a Twitter post on Greenpeace’s official German account.

“We hope that everyone is OK and that no one was seriously injured. Greenpeace actions are always peaceful and non-violent.”

“Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.”

READ MORE: Climate activists rage as Germany opts for drawn-out coal exit