There is a lot of news from Asia and North America about advancements in automotive technology and the legacy and start-up players that are generating new tech products in those locations.  There are also stories about autotech development from the UK or Israel, and some other places, but it is Germany that is Europe’s emerging automotive technology hub.

Much of this is progress has been built on the foundation of the now rapid advances in R&D by German OEM’s in the automotive sector – VW/Audi, BMW and Daimler.   For them, what had previously been more of a niche play to excite the wealthy Chinese consumer market has now matured to become a business strategy for the masses.  The main players in Germany are committed to become global players in propulsion, autonomy and connected technology.

Silicon Saxony – The German State of Saxony is the hub for much of this innovation and as a region is teeming with technology development, it has become known as  “Silicon Saxony”.   “In Leipzig, you can feel the openness to innovation and to new developments,” says Hans-Peter Kemser, who heads BMW’s plant in the ancient city.   Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW now all produce batteries and electric vehicles in the region and autotech is thriving from research institutes, specialty companies and Europe’s largest-known deposit of lithium make Saxony a global center for electric vehicle  technology and production.   German electric-car industry centers in ‘Silicon Saxony’

Within the last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the site of a future lithium-ion battery factory in the Saxony town of Kamenz. The factory is being developed by Daimler, which will invest approximately €500 million (or $562 million) to produce batteries for electric vehicles and stationary storage.   According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Daimler’s Kamenz plant will be the biggest battery factory yet in Europe, with other lithium-ion battery factories planned for Sweden, Hungary, and Poland.     Daimler Begins Construction on $562M Lithium-Ion Battery Factory in Germany

Daimler didn’t provide projections for the factory’s production capacity, but it did say that its investment would quadruple the size of an existing battery factory on the site, which is run by Accumotive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler. The German automaker is also pledging another €500 million to expand battery production worldwide. And if all goes well at the Kamenz site, Daimler says it will “go into operation in mid-2018.”

Move Over Tesla, Europe’s Building Its Own Battery Gigafactories

Last week, Daimler subsidiary Mercedes-Benz Energy announced a partnership with Vivint Solar to sell stationary storage batteries along with solar panels in California. The company has also experimented with reusing old electric-vehicle batteries for grid-tied storage. (When electric-vehicle batteries degrade past a certain point, they’re no longer road-worthy, but they can still store energy as part of infrastructure.)

Industry research and investment, intersected with national policy is something that is celebrated in Germany, which is well-ahead of the US in that regard.  According to Reuters, Chancellor Merkel said “We need long-term horizons and companies that invest in the future. It is important that electric mobility is ready for the market as quickly as possible.” She had noted earlier in the week that the German government had invested €35 million in battery research, and she claimed she “had been briefed about the latest lithium cells which could allow cars to travel up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) without needing to be recharged,” Reuters said.