Speaker Spotlight: Marcus Hafkemeyer Director - Head of European Automotive Battery Tech, LG Chem Europe GmbH

The Battery Show Europe catches up with Conference Speaker Marcus Hafkemeyer to discuss industry changes, vehicle electrification and who the market leaders are building up to 2020. 

Can you tell us about LG Chem Europe and the company’s current vehicle electrification goals?

LG Chem is one of the most comprehensive battery cell and module suppliers and is currently developing Hybrid, PHEV, and BEV projects with all major automotive OEMs worldwide. In comparison to competitors, whose focus is as a single supplier to a few OEMs, only we are experiencing many different sets of battery and cell requirements for different markets from our customers in the early stage. This helps us to get a very good overview on where the electrification needs are developing regarding next-generation batteries of established and newcomer OEMs. Thus this is a crucial condition for us to standardise our future cell and module library in order to achieve and maintain performance, cost, and quality targets of our products.

Our predicted volume production of battery cells for 2020 is almost reaching our capacity limits and further expansion in the years after 2020 is most likely necessary due to ongoing big project requests from OEMs.

The trend after 2020 relates to significant tightened worldwide emission regulations.

What topics are you planning to discuss and what can delegates hope to take from your plenary session?

In our presentation we will show our global approach of development and production facilities worldwide to fulfill the needs of our customers, markets, and legalisation. Furthermore, we will present our view on different battery requirements for different applications in different markets and how we will be prepared with our products.

You have worked in the electric powertrain arena since 1996 with Audi, BMW, and now LG Chem. How has the industry changed in those years?

 When I started my career with Audi in Ingolstadt in 1997 the OEMs dominated as mechanical engineering companies. I was working in AUDI’s E/E division with around 50 other engineers and the chief tasks were to take care of a few electric/electronic key components such as the electric lights, the four different radio versions, the display, the engine control unit, the alternator, the battery, and the wires.

Shortly afterwards, electronic components such as navigation systems, integrated high-performance radio variants, and other electronic functionalities became available on the options list of the car manufacturers. The OEMs realised they could increase their profit by providing more customised electronic features. The complexity grew significantly and even the increased amount of necessary one-to-one wire connections had to switch to intelligent CAN and LIN SW protocol connections. That led to significant growth of electronic knowledge and workforce within the OEMs over the past 15 years. Due to more and more intelligent connections of components, new functionalities became possible. At my first job at BMW in 2003/2004, we were able to use all the knowledge of electric energy systems components in the 12V powernet combined with their new electronic control-command structure to enable recuperation and engine start-stop functionality without implementing new components, but with new operation strategies and slight endurance adjustments.

This was the key to implement EfficientDynamics as an electric/electronic CO2 reduction approach at BMW in 2007 and at other OEMs who followed later.

Later on at BMW I was lucky to be part of the i-team who developed the first pure electric BMW i3 car and powertrain. Even for BMW, it was like inventing a new approach of designing cars because electric cars have very different needs and requirements in the car architecture compared to conventional combustion cars. At this time, the powertrain development at BMW was divided between people who worked for regular conventional powertrains and those who worked at the first pure electric powertrain for the BMW I project.

At that time in 2010, it became very clear to me that the battery and the battery’s cells are the absolute key components for the future of electromobility. BMW decided to develop the entire BMW i3 powertrain on its own and only the cells were bought because there was no expertise available.

Therefore it was a logical move, in 2014, for me to take the offer from LG Chem, one of the most comprehensive battery cell suppliers, to build up a European Automotive Battery Tech Centre in Frankfurt.

Mechanical engineering and electronics/SW engineering are more or less established within the big OEMs. But chemical engineering and chemical development processes, as I experienced and learnt during my first months at LG Chem, are still not entirely understood at OEMs.

Adapting to these different methodologies of chemistry development and industrialisation will be one of the topics OEMs need to understand and embrace in order to be able to contribute to further development progress of battery cell performance and durability in their vehicles.

What are the key areas Europe must strengthen before it can compete on a global scale in manufacturing, distribution, and R&D?

I am not sure there will be mass manufacturing of lithium-ion cells established in Europe within the next 10 years other than from the current big 4 cell suppliers. In order to catch up to current and predicted battery and cell performance and costs, there would need to be huge investments now which would not be turned into relevant business revenue until at least 10 years from now.

Therefore, I believe new competitors who want to become players in this field are focussing on future post lithium-ion technologies rather than stepping into the current technology.

Can Europe compete against Asia and the US and one day manufacturer everything from cell to vehicle?

European – and especially German – OEMs, have outstanding expertise in conventional powertrain architectures and drivetrains with an emphasis placed on maximum comfort, especially at high-speed and/or challenging road conditions. With electrification on the one side, and autonomous driving concepts on the other side, it is a perfect opportunity for newcomers to step into this new field of future (electro) mobility and tackle the established OEMs at their core. Tesla is one example which demonstrates that, at least for a certain volume and market niche, it can definitely compete with established OEMs.

To my understanding, it will be crucial for European/German OEMs to adapt and change their organisations to so-called ‘mobility service companies’ similar to the approaches of Google, Apple, Uber, et cetera. These will be dominant in the next decades like several market experts predicted.

On top of that, I feel that with autonomous driving, even the core competencies of all regular and well-established car manufacturers will be compromised. The value of high-speed performance and smooth, sophisticated drivetrains will fade out step by step and customers will begin to focus more on connectivity and comfort during the rides. Drive- and powertrains will become more or less standardised HW platforms for mobility in the future. This will become the perfect opportunity for business newcomers with outstanding data access to step in, sourcing HW from former OEMs, and build up new autonomous mobility services.

Where do you see the biggest growth area in vehicle electrification?

China will further strengthen its present lead in the new-energy vehicles sector as it is driven by both environmental needs and government plans of becoming the leading country in electromobility. But in Europe, electrification will also increase due to further decreased emission limits (75g CO2/km average under discussion), which would represent an average fleet fuel consumption of 3,2l/100km gasoline or 2,8l/100km diesel. These targets can only be achieved with high percentages of PHEV and BEV vehicles along with standardised electrified combustion powertrains (48V powernet).

How does that compare with how you predict the European EV market will develop?

I am confident that the EV market will start taking off once customers realise that electric cars can be very desirable vehicles both in range and design. Currently, there is only the Tesla Model S and Model X which draws special attention in this way. But with recent releases of the Chevy Bolt, the new LR Zoe, and other upcoming stunning electric vehicles, along with the growing charging infrastructure, customer perception of electric cars will be altered very soon.

Some in the industry tout 48V architectures as the most economical solution to meeting CO
2 emission targets. Do you see the vehicle market moving more to hybrids rather than pure EV, and if so, why?

I definitely see the spread of 48V powertrain applications at OEMs as a strategy to achieve the biggest part CO2 reduction potential during the emission test cycles with manageable effort. In addition to the 48V electrification approach, I predict that new functionalities such as electric boosting and noiseless electric parking will also be available as regular functionalities in all conventional cars.

How much will factors such as cell cost or legislation affect the vehicle electrification market up to 2020?

Battery cell costs and corresponding battery pack costs in 2020 have already reached thresholds where certain conventional powertrain solutions can be substituted. This is the reason why we at LG Chem are currently in the challenging situation of expanding our workforce quick enough to manage all awarded and soon-to-be-awarded projects. In our most positive scenarios we didn't expect the market to grow as fast as it is right now, but it is surely also accelerated by recent emissions scandals.


Can you explain the difference in PO-P4 architectures, and which one do you think will become a market leader up to 2020?

The P0-P4 architectures describe the integration of electric motors/alternators in existing powertrain designs. The result of these combined powertrains are known as hybrid vehicles.

In current regular combustion engine cars, a belt-driven alternator is used. P0 on the other hand, as the simplest architecture, uses a starter/alternator which besides providing electric current can also assist the engine with additional torque during acceleration and start the engine under certain conditions. The P0 architecture can be implemented with only small adjustments to the belt drive and can be equipped with powerful 48V starter/alternators, which achieve very good results in helping to reduce CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, the torque assist is limited due to belt design and the electric driving experience is not possible with the P0 architecture due to the fixed connection to the combustion engine. The P1 architecture is different in the way the electric motor/alternator is mounted to the crankshaft of the combustion engine directly. Therefore, the torque assist and recuperation potential is not limited like the belt drive design. Still, an electric driving experience is not possible due to the fixed connection to the engine crankshaft. Both architectures are so-called mild hybrids with some even distinguished as micro hybrids when the P0 architecture is equipped with a 12V starter/alternator.

The P2 architecture is a real full hybrid architecture due to the fact that there is a clutch between the electric motor/alternator and the combustion engine so that the car can be driven with the electric motor alone while the combustion engine is entirely off. The car can also be driven by the combustion engine only and a combination of both motors working in parallel. Equipped with an option to charge the car externally, the P2 architecture full hybrid is called a plug-in hybrid. The difference for P3 and P4 architectures to the P2 is the different location of the electric motor/alternator either before the gear output (P2), behind the gear output (P3), or directly at the driven axle (P4).

P0 architectures with 48V starter/alternators will become very popular in the next years with lots of new vehicle releases in 2017/2018. The easy integration of the starter/alternator in the existing belt drive combined with the high achievable values of CO2 reduction are an attractive solution for most of the OEMs.

Of course, when compared with an EV, there is only a little CO2 reduction by the single car (5-7%), but combined with high leverage of vehicle volumes its contribution is still significant.

Additionally, the P2 architecture will extend its leadership for all hybrid and plug-in hybrid applications. The fact that the P2 powertrain architecture is almost entirely implementable in scalable automatic transmissions means it is accessible for different existing vehicle architectures with manageable adjustments.

What will future battery technology look like, and could next-generation chemistries such as lithium-sulfur ever take over lithium-ion in EV/HEV applications?

Current lithium-ion chemistries can already provide ranges for electric cars of about 500km (around 400km real driving). The biggest goal for the next five to 10 years is to further reduce the costs rather than increase the range. From my perspective, there is still a lot of improvement potential available to increase energy density and reduce costs by implementing chemistries used in consumer electronic devices and expand its characteristics to fulfill the significantly stronger automotive requirements.

With the implementation of Ni rich content materials at the cathode and silicon oxide materials at the anode we are convinced that it will maintain the safety and long-term stability requirements while increasing energy density and power performance.

LG Chem is of course also thoroughly investigating other battery technologies like lithium-Sulfur and lithium-metal, as well as solid-state batteries.

These technologies have very promising singular qualities but they also have major unsolved problems.

I am convinced that before we will see these technologies in mass market automotive applications they will first be introduced to the consumer electronics industry. The component requirements of automotive applications must consider the volumes, safety, quality, and cost demands, which are the highest in the world beside aviation.

In general, I can say that for the next 10 to 15 years lithium-ion chemistry at least will be the lead chemistry for automotive applications. The existing improvement potential of lithium-ion is very promising. I guess that in the next three to five years another breakthrough in lithium-ion technology will be possible so that future technologies might need to wait a little bit longer.


Don’t miss Marcus Hafkemeyer’s keynote session at The Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Conference Europe.

Day 1 – Tuesday, 4 April, 9.00

Keynote Plenary Session 1 – Strengthening the European Battery Industry to Compete on a Global Scale

Find out more here.

Passes start from €595 -  book a conference pass here.

Alongside the conference, a comprehensive supply chain exhibition featuring over 200 companies will showcase the latest solutions and innovations in advanced batteries, electric and hybrid vehicle technologies. Register for a free expo pass here