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Interview with a Leader - April 2021

Every month in 2021, APR will share a discussion with a Leader in his/her field.

This month's Interview with a Leader is dedicated to a very meaningful and visionary project for Europe and mostly Italy.

We talked to Lars Carlstrom, CEO of Italvolt but above all a lifetime entrepreneur determined to make a change.

Italvolt is the first and largest next-generation Gigafactory in Southern Europe. With a capacity of 45 GW, this Italian based factory is going to be able to supply the European market with green, sustainable batteries.

Lars deems his mission is to change society impacting positively areas in decline. As a matter of fact, Italvolt slogan shows how further it goes: 'Beyond energy': it's not only about batteries, they are just a tool to contribute to the big change!

Let's deep dive into the backstage of this project and the vision of its leader together.

Lars was the one who launched the UK Gigafactory project in 2019 and is now working to build up this huge turn-around project in Piemonte - Italy.

So, what are the main differences between those two projects and what are the upcoming challenges of Italvolt?

The first aspect Lars wants to point out is the true cultural differences there are between UK and Italy: In Italy he has received an astonishing support, both from people and institutions. People are curious, get emotionally involved in the topic and make the necessary steps to support the project to come to light. The Italian enthusiasm is unmatched!

For sure, the consequences of the success of such an enterprise are huge: if the supply chain is properly built, it could mean up to 15000 jobs created…

Lars likes to see the positive side of this pandemic; he believes it has created a great window of opportunity and the world is becoming a place you can dare to do things. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild our society and to rethink ways we used to do things.

On the other hand, for decades we've been moving processes to Asia, giving away our industries and our control over it. No doubt the change is an investment on the future and it will take some years to fully make the transition and start seeing the full effect of it.

The main focus of Italvolt development? Its supply chain! Visibility and control are of absolute criticality to be able to deliver this sustainable position. As a matter of fact, Asian production of green batteries would be a non-sense: how can green batteries travel and stay green?!

So now, the whole supply chain is being rethought, recreated to match with those sustainability criteria at the heart of this project: not only environmental but also economic and social. The reindustrialization has begun!

Your site will stand up as a pioneer of green manufacturing, but this is certainly not without challenges and the involvement of key institutions: what are your expectations?

Once again, the way Italvolt will design its supply chain will be key.

From where Lars stands, a strong government involvement is fundamental to be able to certify this new kind of supply chain, totally independent from Asia.

Lots of areas in decline will benefit from this relocation and Lars trusts it’s the government duty to make sure all aspects of those investments come together there. The wealth of those forgotten areas is a pit of opportunities to foster.

Close to 19M cars are produced in Europe and in 2030 we foresee that 70% of them will be electric. One Gigafactory will of course not be enough to cover the demand.

Obviously, if those Gigafactories continue to rise, the government also must make sure that those batteries will be chosen by consumers! This closes the loop on the necessary visibility of the supply chain: the more unclear the supply chain is, the higher the green tax should be!

Italvolt also launched a great project of integration with American Manganese: what about it?

Lars is proud to say that he has found in American Manganese the partner every sustainable factory looks for. Indeed, it will allow a complete integration of the recycling strategy and therefore create a circular and environment-friendly economy. 99,8% of lithium-ion batteries materials can be recycled thanks to the American Manganese patent.

This kind of partnership is the outcome of long analysis, both technological and structural to ensure the viability of such a collaboration. Sustainability is also joining forces to protect know-hows and processes.

Let's talk about the social aspect of sustainability: what projects are you implementing to position your Gigafactory at the highest standards? How do you see the future of work?

Thrilled of the many initiatives being prepared, Lars is mainly focused on the education center being integrated within the factory. He believes it's the social responsibility of a company to help population be their better self and provide the training some kid might not have access to so that tomorrow they can give back and become the future workers of the Gigaplant.

Italvolt has also entered into a partnership with the Politecnico di Milano for high-end education courses. As Gigafactories projects arise, competencies requested will get more specific and high level and those competencies cannot come short: we must train today the experts of tomorrow.

The small city that's being built has a true social purpose to Lars: the education platform, childcare center, restaurants will provide this productive environment that might be neglected currently when supply chain are spread over the world.

Smart working is of course part of the new business models, but Lars is a strong supporter of the socialization need we all have and he's making sure his Gigaplant will ensure the integration and involvement of People on the long run.

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