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Germany’s CUSTOMCELLS develops customised lithium-ion batteries for a range of sectors including automotive. It’s just announced a joint venture with Porsche called Cellforce Group GmbH.

Leopold König and Torge Thönnessen, the co-CEOs of CUSTOMCELLS, have been talking to Auto Futures about the company’s customer-specific services and the new partnership with Porsche.

The company emerged in 2012 as a spin-off from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT), which is based in the town of Itzehoe.

“We recognized early on that there was a great demand from industry for individual battery solutions. As a result, we started as Custom Cells Itzehoe GmbH. Later, CUSTOMCELLS Tübingen GmbH was founded and from 2019, one of the most modern cell production lines in Europe was set up at the site there as part of the KomVar funding project,” says König.

In March, 2021, series production for high-quality lithium-ion battery cells in small-to-medium volumes got underway. CUSTOMCELLS develops and produces batteries for a wide range of industries – with a focus on the automotive, marine, oil and gas and, in the future, the aviation sector.

“Today, we have more than 600 customers, have completed more than 1,400 development-intensive projects, and have designed and ramped up four cell factories under contract,” he explains.

CUSTOMCELLS offers a broad portfolio of different services based around battery cell production.

Thönnessen says: “For example, we support our customers in all matters relating to technical consulting, the prototyping of electrodes, cells and energy storage systems. We support them in the technology ramp-up from laboratory to scalable production, while we also produce small and medium series according to individual specifications.” 

“Our customers benefit from our many years of know-how and maximum flexibility. For example, we enable the production of cells in individual formats and shapes, offer flexible electrode loading as well as various tab constellations and customized cell chemistry.”

“Among those who benefit from this, include industrial partners who are dependent on an alternative to the otherwise large-volume production of Asian cell manufacturers, especially in the pre-development and prototype stages of their products,” he adds.

In the automotive industry, its technology is primarily used in the high-performance range.

“We therefore develop and produce specific battery cells for hybrid and all-electric supercars or electric prototypes with exceptional performance characteristics. We can be relied upon for our know-how and technology wherever particularly high-quality and performance requirements must come together,” explains Thönnessen.

CUSTOMCELLS does not engage in large-scale production. Instead, it focuses on the development of individual battery cells that are precisely tailored to specific customer applications.

“This expertise is already the unique selling point of our company. In order to remain one of the leading companies in the future, we are systematically pursuing a strategy of technological vertical integration through cooperations with the respective ‘best in class’ companies in the value chain,” König tells us.

“In addition, we are continuously reviewing all our development and production processes and are  increasingly relying on IT, robotics and the use of artificial intelligence to achieve significant improvements,” he notes.

Customcells Standort Tuebingen 06

“The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future.”

In June, 2021, CUSTOMCELLS announced the joint venture with Porsche. The sportscar manufacturer is investing double-digit millions in the new company which will produce high-performance battery cells. It will hold a majority stake of 83.75 per cent in the JV, which has its headquarters in the city of Tübingen.

“Through our joint venture, the CELLFORCE Group, we are developing the next generation of high-performance batteries. They are the power source that combines the Porsche feeling and driving experience with sustainability. Porsche’s decision to choose CUSTOMCELLS was made in the spring after a thorough global screening process,” explains Thönnessen.

“We are very proud that the sports car manufacturer chose us. Our many years of experience in cell development for the automotive industry, as well as a large number of successful projects, were ultimately the deciding factors. It is a testament to our scientific and sustainable work at the German site,” he adds.

The JV’s plan is to build a production plant with a capacity of at least 100 MWh per year. This corresponds to high-performance battery cells for approximately 1,000 vehicles. The initial focus will be on motorsport and high-performance vehicles.

“In addition to the Group battery kit, Porsche also has a need for a ‘small’ number of high-performance batteries for pure motorsport vehicles and supercars in small and special series. CUSTOMCELLS will develop these high-performance cells and manufacture them together with Porsche,” says Thönnessen.

Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board at Porsche, states: “The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future. As a new Porsche subsidiary, the Cellforce Group will be instrumental in driving forward the research, development, production and sales of high-performance battery cells.” 

“For CUSTOMCELLS ourselves, we will continue to remain loyal to our existing customers as a prototype developer, series cell manufacturer and technology supplier, in addition to our cooperation with Porsche,” comments Thönnessen.

Customcells Standort Tuebingen 04 Credits: CUSTOMCELLS/Markus Schwer

Expansion Plans

CUSTOMCELLS’s co-CEOs strongly believe that their technology can help make mobility environmentally friendly and sustainable.

“Here and now, our technology is proving itself on the road – tomorrow it will also prove itself on or under water and in the air,” says König.

“With our scientific approach, our development capacities and our flexible options for mass production at our German site, we will drive the battery-based electrification of a wide range of industries and therefore play an active role in shaping Germany’s future viability. With this in mind, we will massively expand our Itzehoe and Tübingen sites in the coming months,” he says.

Finally, we asked Thönnessen to look to the future and give us his vision of what EV charging will be like by 2030.

“Electromobility will be one of the mainstays of urban mobility in 2030 – and in a wide variety of forms. With our technology, we are therefore focusing on further increasing the energy content of the cells and further expanding their fast-charging capabilities. In this way, we are laying the foundations for a wide range of new applications and uses,” he says.

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