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Freyr's CEO on battery struggles and what's next

Freyr Battery workers build out its customer qualification plant in northern Norway. Photo courtesy of Phillip Navin

Freyr Battery's new CEO Birger Steen tells Axios that the company hasn't given up on manufacturing next-gen batteries, despite recent production challenges and business decisions.

Why it matters: The struggles of Freyr [NYSE:FREY] highlight the difficulties of ramping up manufacturing of a new type of battery that could be important for storing clean energy or powering electric vehicles.

Catch up quick: A little over two weeks ago, Freyr said in its third-quarter earnings report that the company faced technical problems with factory machines and didn't know when it could start automated production of the batteries that it had licensed to make from 24M Technologies, an MIT spinout.

  • As a result, Freyr said it would pursue making both conventional lithium iron phosphate batteries, potentially from a Chinese supplier, as well as the 24M batteries at its factory in Coweta County in Georgia.
  • It's a highly unusual move to pursue two tech paths, and one that Wall Street and analysts slammed it for, leading its stock to slump.
  • The company, which is in the process of redomiciling to the U.S., also paused construction and investment into a big battery factory in Norway, which it had dubbed as Giga Artic.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

On why to redomicile the company from Norway to the U.S.:

  • The U.S. as a destination for climate tech investments is now, especially since the launch of the Inflation Reduction Act, sort of well established.
  • We have been listed on the New York Stock Exchange for the better part of two years now, and aligning ownership with listing location has a couple of extra advantages.
  • It's become clear to us that there's no scalable response to the IRA emanating from Europe anytime soon.

On the Georgia factory building both the conventional batteries and the 24M tech:

  • One of the attractions of Georgia is that we have a lot of available land. We foresee that we'd be able to pursue both technologies, either in parallel or one first and then the other.
  • The announcement we made two weeks ago should not be taken to mean that we are de-emphasizing the 24M SemiSolid technology at all. In fact, we are doubling down on the development of that out of our customer qualification plant in Mo in the north of Norway.
  • You could say we have an option that has zero geopolitical risk and some timing risk, and then we have an option that might have some geopolitical risk, but no timing risk. And that we think is a good way to make sure we take the timeline into our control.

On fundraising for building production:

  • At the company level, we are not planning to issue any equity or do any funding in the near future, the next year or two.
  • But the plan all along has been to secure project-level funding for both the Giga Arctic, which has now stopped, but also Giga America. We can tap into both project finance and equity, also non-dilutive funding and debt, at the asset level.
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