Californian Cuberg, a subsidiary of Northvolt, could establish itself in Quebec

Cuberg, a California subsidiary of Northvolt that specializes in producing batteries for the electric aerospace industry, may choose to locate its future manufacturing operations in Quebec.

At least that’s what the co-founder of Northvolt and President of Northvolt North America, Paolo Cerruti, said on Tuesday on the sidelines of his appearance at the podium of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in Montreal, without officially committing to it.

“We are looking into it,” he confirmed during a press briefing after the event. It’s still very early in the process. We’re still a few years away [d’une décision]which could probably occur in the second half of this decade.

Californian Cuberg, a subsidiary of Northvolt, could establish itself in Quebec

Paolo Cerruti, CEO of Northvolt North America. Martin Jolicour

Cuberg is based in a suburb of San Francisco and has been working since 2015 on developing a new lithium-ion battery system intended for the electric mobility industry, but particularly for aviation.

Northvolt, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, acquired the company two years ago (in 2021), taking on the challenge of moving the results of its tests into the commercialization phase.

From San Francisco to Mirabel?

In contrast to conventional lithium-ion batteries used in the automotive industry, the batteries developed by Cuberg are characterized by their heavy weight, which makes them particularly attractive for aircraft manufacturers and the aviation industry in general.

“We plan to reserve space locally when we think it would be logical to build a first industrial-scale factory here in Quebec. “That doesn’t mean that we have made the decision to industrialize Cuberg here,” the Swedish president replied.

Californian Cuberg, a subsidiary of Northvolt, could establish itself in Quebec

Airbus Assembly Plant Airbus Canada, 13 100, Boul. Henri Fabre Mirabel, Quebec, Canada. Thursday, February 20, 2020 PHOTO: MARTIN ALARIE / JOURNAL DE MONTREAL MARTIN ALARIE / JOURNAL DE MONTR

The latter did not specify whether the target site in Quebec is on the current Northvolt site, a brownfield site between McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand in Montérégie acquired for $240 million.

Or in the regions of Dorval and Mirabel airports, where most of the major companies in the aviation sector are based, including Airbus, Bell Textron, Bombardier, Esterline CMC, Liebherr Aerospace, Safran Group, Thales and many others.

When asked to clarify his thoughts, the president of Northvolt North America stated that the technology developed by Cuberg is promising but is still inaccessible to most.

“For this reason, we will initially focus on the niche industry, which is less cost-sensitive. And then we will gradually move on to larger markets.”

no worries

On Tuesday, Northvolt’s co-founder sought to reassure himself about the viability of his mega-factory project on Montreal’s south shore during this time of downturn in the battery industry in the United States.

Californian Cuberg, a subsidiary of Northvolt, could establish itself in Quebec

An illustration of the lithium batteries that Cuberg, a subsidiary of Northvolt, is developing at its California facilities. Cuberg

Facing weaker-than-expected consumer demand, big names in the American auto industry such as Ford, General Motors and Tesla have shelved plans to expand their electric vehicle production capacity in recent months.

In response, major electric battery manufacturers such as Korea’s LG Energy Solution quickly reduced production, implemented hundreds of layoffs and halted investments in the United States.

Responding to a question from the Journal, Paolo Cerruti said these developments would not affect the realization or significance of his factory project in Quebec.

Help from Quebec and Ottawa

The latter, remember, plans to build an electric vehicle battery factory worth 7 billion (G$).

Quebec has committed to investing $1.4 billion in public aid in the project and providing $1.5 billion in additional incentives if production goes well.

For its part, Ottawa has committed to contributing $1.3 million to the project and contributing $3.1 billion during production.