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DB Schenker handles the Central European distribution of lithium cells for electric vehicles

Lithium batteries are the main driving force in the current electrification of Europe's roads. The world's leading producer of these cells, from South Korea, is collaborating with the Czech branch of the logistics company DB Schenker in the distribution of these batteries to European car manufacturers, with DB Schenker in charge of their customs clearance, storage and subsequent distribution to automotive plants in neighbouring countries.

Future development scenarios predict that by 2030, there will be more than 130 million electric cars on roads around the world. This will inevitably lead to high demand for batteries or their cells, which are already a supply chain challenge owing to their special storage and transport requirements. Since last spring DB Schenker's logistics terminals have enabled the storage and logistics of lithium-ion cells in electric vehicle factories across Central Europe.

"Last year alone, our warehouses in Ústí nad Labem, Pardubice and Mnichovo Hradiště handled around 50,000 pallets of lithium cells for leading European carmakers worth a total value of over 500 billion crowns," says Pavel Gorčica, Director of transportation operations at DB Schenker.

Batteries or battery cells are subject to stringent transport and storage requirements according to the European ADR standard. DB Schenker always stores this type of goods in accordance with the environmental standards, separate from other potentially flammable goods in dry and well-ventilated premises. Lithium-ion cells are charged to a maximum of 30% of their capacity during transport. They are stored on plates in aluminium transport packaging on plastic returnable pallets and are always carried on roads in temperature-controlled trucks. The cells are then installed in battery boxes, which then power electric cars produced by carmakers such as Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Daimler.

DB Schenker's plays a crucial role in this process - it receives cells shipped from factories in South Korea, China or Hungary and subsequently distributes them securely to electric vehicle plants in Central Europe, such as the Daimler plant in the German town of Kamenz and the Mercedes-Benz battery plant in the town of Jawor near Wrocław, Poland. The reusable transport packaging is then shipped via Czech warehouses by sea back to South Korea and China.

One major challenge from a operational point of view is to distinguish between customs and non-customs consignments. "In administrative terms it is more difficult for a logistics company to distinguish between non-customs shipments from Hungary and those we receive on ships from Asia. However, this proved to be a huge operational advantage for the client during the blockage of the Suez Canal, as the factory in Komárom was able to continue to supply carmakers and they did not have to interrupt production,” adds Martin Bodlák, manager of the DB Schenker logistics centre in Mnichovo Hradiště.

DB Schenker has been further specialising in the storage and transport of lithium batteries for two years now. Battery logistics calls for some extremely complex processes, as car batteries are classified as hazardous goods that require special transport and storage conditions.