Peter Carlsson started as a quality manager at Kami AB and a year later he began his career with Ericsson, later Sony Ericsson before he moved on to NXP, the former Phillips Semiconductor.
In 2011 Carlsson became vice president at Tesla. During his four and a half years there, Tesla grew from a value of $100 million to $6.5 billion (now the most valuable U.S. auto manufacturer), and from less than 400 employees to more than 160,000 today.
Tesla now has more than 100,000 vehicles on the roads with this suite of sensors. In three weeks they collect as much data as Google does in seven years.
During this period, Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, not only made the company the most important U.S. auto manufacturer and a world leader in innovative electric vehicles, but he also created a superlative and massive battery factory in Nevada, producing critical batteries for large enterprise sites and for residential ones; now he has expanded into generating electricity from solar tiles for wall sidings, and proven his commercial space rocket company, SpaceX, for transporting government supplies to the space station or for other commercial operations.
With that dynamism behind him, Carlsson is now returning to Sweden as CEO of Northvolt, making Sweden the most significant supplier of batteries throughout Europe (for starters).

A competitive advantage
Recently the local SACC chapter and the Silicon Vikings in San Francisco held a joint meeting to hear about the development of an entirely new industry in Sweden from former Tesla VP Peter Carlsson. Carlsson is heading a team whose knowledge, expertise and technology are being invested in northern Europe to further the clean, green goals of the region.
In his opening remarks Carlsson described Elementum, a remarkable 5-year-old Swedish enterprise, as revolutionarily digitizing the supply chain process that every large manufacturer faces. Accurate and timely knowledge of the status of the company’s supplies and continual information on contextual constraints can be the competitive distinction between dominance and mediocrity. So, digitizing all aspects of supply can now present executives with an accurate status and forecast of their supply chain in realtime. Combined with machine-learning software, it means the reports will become ever smarter in their forecasts, which explains why Elementum has grown so rapidly, now claiming many Fortune 100 companies as clients.
Carlsson discussed transportation, noting that major car companies were experimenting with electric or hybrid cars and with autonomous vehicle partners.
So, why is electrification coming so fast? Simple: It’s a matter of energy efficiency and therefore of economics for the companies as well as for the public. In fact, given its size and scale, it’s beginning to look a bit like the revolutions that have swept the world for the adoption of computers, the internet and cellphones over the last quarter century.
Internal combustion cars are only about 25 percent efficient, fuel cell cars 35 percent; but vehicles with electric motors and batteries are between 85 and 90 percent efficient. What is momentarily holding back this surge is driving range and charging time for electric vehicles (cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats and cycles, as well as motorized scooters, skateboards and electric wheelchairs). But all those are being addressed and yielding improvements with every model year.


Electric transport future
The electric motors and drive chains are not the brake here; it's the current state of batteries that is holding back this transformation. The energy density of the batteries is a major drawback to adoption; but even so, we daily see more electric cars, and increasingly smaller and lighter ones, extending the battery usage. So the challenge is the competence required to fully transform our cars as well as establish an extensive and ample charging infrastructure.
To make his point Carlsson showed several unusual examples of electric vehicles, that, for the most part, are much larger than cars. First was the Proterra electric bus in Redwood City, CA, which is having trouble ramping up sufficiently because of the huge demand. A second example was the Liliojet plane, which has 26 electric fans in its body and wings allowing for vertical liftoff (VTOL). While launching the jet requires a lot of energy, it is seven times more efficient than a Tesla when flying. Another example was a Canadian speedboat that uses electric fans for hydrofoils and reaches speeds exceeding 22 knots per hour for 80 nautical miles. They are working on algorithms to stabilize the hydrofoils at these speeds.
Finally, for those who typically think of midget cars when considering electric powered vehicles, Carlsson showed an example of a mighty earthmoving electrical excavator for underground mining. Interestingly, with current petroleum based machines, the costs for water and ventilation frequently exceed that for fuel, as one of the largest expenses in mining. Of course, amplifying this electrification, digital guidance and monitoring together with robotization, will further decimate the number and role of miners.
The inflection point between machines powered directly by fossil fuels to car motors powered by electricity is seen in the success of the Tesla car itself. The sporty Tesla Model S initially cost $70,000. Now Tesla’s car for everyone else, the Model 3 (formerly the sexy S3X) costs $35,000. The Model S had about 7,000 battery cells; the new Model 3 has considerably fewer. The pent-up demand for the Model 3, as evidenced by those who financially committed to it before it was even produced, will require Tesla to produce a half million vehicles per year just to meet demand.
That will consume more than all the batteries produced today, which explains not only why Musk had to build his Nevada battery gigafactory, but also why it will instantly become so successful while meeting the greater need for large, rechargeable industrial and residential batteries.
None of the other normal battery manufacturers have this pent-up demand. They are confined to small batteries and smaller horizons. Panasonic makes a decent profit but Sony does not. The whole industry, prior to this forthcoming revolution, was very tiered and segmented, profiting merely by producing enough batteries to meet minimal demand.
In contrast, Tesla will have a 30 percent lower battery cost than any other company when the Model S is introduced. That is called a key competitive advantage, or simply: dominance. But even if there were but half the demand, there currently exists no way the battery industry could meet this accelerating demand within a couple years.
It comes down to the classic economic conundrum of supply vs demand. In Europe this year BMC will build its German battery factory; LG Chem will build a plant in Poland to supply 50,000 vehicles. Next year Samsung will build in Hungary, and Tesla will build in Europe its second gigafactory. This supply of batteries is anticipated to meet the growing demand for affordable and portable electricity, which will accelerate the demand for personal electric cars. The concern must be that the calculations are correct so there is not a glut.
Carlson stated China lacks the knowledge, technique and technology to build the most efficient batteries. But, as in all other technologies, they will soon be massively producing batteries. Because of their gross pollution, however, he expects much of that demand will be national: So, the Chinese will consume much of China’s own output.
Yet, it is useful to remember the last time we were in this position and positing such conclusions about China — the U.S. invested millions of dollars in a solar panel startup in Silicon Valley, only to have the Chinese overwhelm it with new technology that undercut the cost of U.S. solar panels and captured the worldwide manufacturing of the entire industry.

Megatrends in electrification
Carlsson mentioned three megatrends to focus upon in the industry: autonomy, connectivity and electrification — all of which depend upon hardware and software. And cars have two systems which augment the total experience of all the brand’s drivers: monitoring and dynamic maps. Since your car monitors itself thousands of times per minute but also monitors its location and surroundings, it enhances all its experiences with the latest conditions. That is to say, your experience is now amplified by all the information (both internal and external) from the entire fleet of cars. And these new cars are further enhanced by advances in monitoring technology, such as LIDAR (laser radar), cameras and other sensors. The automobile industry has not settled on a standard yet, but as soon as it does, all electric vehicles will be optimized.
When a Tesla vehicle had an accident a year ago, the company did not merely file away a report. Instead Tesla immediately studied all the data from the moments before, during and after the collision, and then they translated those lessons into better cars with improved detection systems, ultimately relying more upon radar to prevent similar accidents. Transmitting these lessons instantly informed the entire fleet, making every vehicle safer — this is not repairing the weakest link to make it stronger; this is replacing all links to strengthen the entire chain.
Why is this important? According to Carlsson, because Tesla now has more than 100,000 vehicles on the roads with this suite of sensors. In three weeks they collect as much data as Google does in seven years. In contrast, most traditional car companies are just now experimenting with electric vehicles and rudimentary digital collection.
The future is clear: Technology will radically change the car, and car companies will become known for their competence not merely in external design but for safety, comfort and energy efficiency. But most traditional car companies are just now experimenting with electric vehicles and rudimentary digital collection.
This significant mismatch is becoming apparent not merely to vehicle manufacturers but also to the petroleum companies, for there is no comparison in the efficiencies between combustion engines and electric generators. And with that, innovative car companies are now hiring software-, electrical- and high-voltage engineers. Those who don’t adapt to the current environment — as in all forms of evolution — will become extinct (like the car official resisting change, who claimed that “our users love the smell of diesel!”).
Recent investments charted by Peter Carlsson, CEO of Northolt, show that investors get the message: Electricity in a car is really cheap. And so, regardless of federal policies, it is only a matter of time before attention is paid to electricity’s efficient production, transmission and propulsion.
In explaining the metrics of battery production for companies and nations, he demonstrated why Sweden can become a leader in the field.

The essential ingredient
Carlsson believes that located in Sweden, Northvolt can make the difference, gaining a distinct competitive advantage. As the world moves from a petroleum-based to electric-driven economy, Sweden is the perfect location for such a battery gigafactory because of the raw materials available in the Nordic region, its power to produce the product as well as charge the batteries. The patents on Lithium-ion batteries are expiring in the near future, and every decade brings a revolution in the energy density of batteries.
The tremendous heat generated by the production of batteries makes it logical to be near water and near a city, which could distribute the heat and excess energy to its residents. Carlsson’s charts show the need for ample batteries (Energy Stationary Storage, ESS) will grow in Europe both to store energy generated from wind and solar farms as well as to balance the fluctuating loads on electric transmission networks. But Europe’s transition to carbon-free electricity will require enormous capacity, perhaps exceeding 700 GWhs (billions of watts consumed per hour) in Europe alone.
To meet this need Northvolt has been formed with Carlsson as CEO. Such a fossil-free future will make Europe even more competitive, not merely in transport and industrial sectors but also in batteries for consumer and residential services. This audacious plan will create gigafactories beside consuming cities, creating 2,500-3,000 jobs — an easy commute for neighboring urban employees.
Initially developing this sector in Sweden, Carlsson believes that Northvolt has half a dozen distinctive advantages: 1) vertical integration (handling all aspects of creating batteries from mining to materials); 2) large scale integration (yielding economies of scale) will produce 3) an energy advantage (inexpensive clean energy both nationally and internationally); 4) supply chain efficiencies (will result in low cost energy at low political risk), and when it recovers materials on the back end by offering 5) recycling for its products, this benefits both consumers and society (by making this energy both environmental and sustainable). All these qualities support the 6) European ethic, enhancing adoption and making the company and countries energy independent with an emphasis on quality, safety and support.
To achieve all this, Carlsson has selected a sterling team of more than two dozen experts and professionals as leaders, advisors and experienced board members. They are currently expanding their team of technical experts, recruiting the best engineers both from abroad and nationally to join them in Stockholm.

Enter sweden
Sweden has a national goal to be carbon neutral within 25 years. Europe is also moving from coal and oil to renewable energy sources. Northvolt would aid Sweden in achieving this fossil-free economy while simultaneously making Europe competitive internationally by serving industry, consumer and transport sectors.
Based on deep vertical integration and state-of-the-art automation, Northvolt would differentiate itself not only by the power of its batteries but by building Europe’s largest and first lithium-ion battery plant, employing 2,500 to 3,000 people and producing 3,000 batteries per hour, for a total output of 35 GWh/year, slashing in half the cost of batteries. Since batteries are a major cost of electric cars, this would be affordable for all — and propel the electrification of transportation.
There are tremendous opportunities to remove fossils fuels from transportation. When converting to generators, electricity in Sweden can be supplied by multiple sources: water, nuclear, wind, solar and biomass. When accepting all these multiple sources and loads, the electric grid will likely become unstable, so a lot of battery storage will be required to balance the transmission. Carlsson believes that the European market alone could exceed 700 GWh (GigaWatts per hour) of consumption.
Fortunately the residential market is rather predictable: Demand peaks between 6:00 and 8:00 in both the morning and the evening. Home energy consumption can potentially be reduced during those periods (for example by residential battery storage) by 70 percent.
Northvolt is now selecting the site where the factory will be built, considering municipalities with an exceptionally strong connection to the national electric grid and nearness to abundant flowing water. They expect to build in 2018, to begin production in late 2020 and to be at full capacity by 2023.
Carlsson concluded with the sage advice of electrochemistry professor Donald Sadoway, from MIT’s School of Materials Science: “A battery will do for the electricity supply chain what refrigeration did to our food supply chain” and make abundant power ubiquitous. Energized by this prospect, Peter Carlsson is a true transformer, who can recharge both Sweden and Europe.

By Ted Olsson