In the presence of more than 100 guests, including Winfried Hermann, Minister of Transport of Baden-Württemberg, Valmet Automotive celebrated the opening of its first plant in Germany for the production of battery systems. The total investment in the plant in Kirchardt near Heilbronn, and thus in the heart of leading German premium OEMs, amounts to a higher double-digit million € value.
After a two-year conversion period, battery systems for electromobility have been produced on the site since February 2023. The ramp-up of the plant started with a small series production of modules, packs and the battery management system (BMS) for the Plug-in-Hybrid (PHEV) variant of an exclusive sports car brand.
With the installation of the production line for the first major order for another customer, a German OEM, “things are now really getting started at the plant,” says Manuel Ötsch, who joined Valmet Automotive in 2021 as a site manager to set up the Kirchardt plant and now responsible for the operation of the Finnish supplier’s all battery plants as Vice President Operations, EV Systems (EVS).
The Kirchardt plant has a total footprint of around 60,000 square meters. Valmet Automotive has set up highly automated production in an area of around 11,500 square meters, offering future-proof jobs for around 160 employees. In line with the company´s high sustainability standards, production in Kirchardt will be CO2-neutral from the very beginning.
In production, two lines are available for the automated production of variable volumes. The process know-how includes both module and package production. In addition, the plant is characterized by a large range in production processes in applications such as bending, cutting, laser welding, gluing, leak testing and end-of-line testing processes.
As in Valmet Automotive´s other battery plants, the structures are such that all EV plants are integrated into the company’s operating system and follow similar processes and standards. Projects can be mapped autonomously at the site.
With the structure in place, we are ensuring consistently high quality in production, increasing our capabilities in the supply of battery systems and at the same time creating the greatest possible proximity to our customers at the respective locations, says Jyrki Nurmi, Senior Vice President EV Systems, Valmet Automotive.
Kirchardt is the company’s third high-volume battery plant and the first in Germany, after Salo and Uusikaupunki, both in Finland. The decision to build a battery plant in Germany was made after Valmet Automotive was nominated by a German car manufacturer as a system supplier for a major battery program that will start soon. A leading criteria to set up the plant in Kirchardt was the proximity to the customer as well as to the company’s development sites in Munich and Bad Friedrichshall, where the company is also running a Battery Test Center. Another decisive reason was the possibility of expanding the production area in Kirchardt by a further 15,000 square meters at short notice.
The opening of our first plant in Germany is an important step in the internationalization of our company and underlines our ambition to take a leading role in the development and production of battery systems within Europe, says Olaf Bongwald, CEO, Valmet Automotive.
Valmet Automotive recognized the opportunities arising from electromobility at an early stage. Starting with the BEV Think City manufactured at the Uusikaupunki plant, followed by the Fisker Karma, the Finnish company has world-class expertise in the series production of electric and electrified vehicles since 2009. With the establishment of the EV Systems division in 2019, which is responsible both for the development and production of battery systems and modules, the strategic focus in the company’s development has been and will be on electromobility. In the meantime, Valmet Automotive offers products for electromobility in all its business lines – Vehicle Contract Manufacturing, EV Systems and Roof & Kinematic Systems.
EV Systems covers the entire value chain of battery systems, and Valmet Automotive is today one of the leading producers of battery systems in Europe. Since the start of production at the company’s first battery plant in Salo in 2019, the company has manufactured around 1,8 million battery systems for hybrid, plug-in and all-electric vehicles.