VÄSTERÅS (dpa-AFX) - Battery manufacturer Northvolt still sees much need for talks on building a plant in Heide in Schleswig-Holstein. Northvolt CEO Peter Carlsson said Friday at a meeting with German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) in Västerås, Sweden, that it is important that there is a long-term energy supply at competitive prices from renewable sources. In addition, he said, there are questions of financing. The process is in full swing, he said.

Habeck said they were in good talks with Northvolt. The final decision must be made by the company, he said. It's not just about money alone, he said, but also about infrastructure and personnel. Different pieces of the puzzle need to be brought together, he said. "And that's what we're trying to do."

Carlsson said the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) - a multibillion-dollar U.S. subsidy program - has created momentum. A year ago, he said, Northvolt said it would build in Europe first and then go to North America. Then the IRA came along. It has made it all but impossible to compete in North America - unless you build manufacturing and a supply chain, he said. With the IRA, there is also very strong pressure from both European and American customers, he said. Demand is steadily increasing, he said.

Habeck visited a Northvolt research lab at the end of a two-day trip to Sweden. Up to 4.5 billion euros are being discussed as the investment volume in Heide. Several thousand jobs could be created. The shift in the auto industry away from combustion engines to electric cars is in full swing. The EU's goal is to make itself less dependent on Asian suppliers, especially with the help of subsidy programs for batteries. Volkswagen also holds shares in Northvolt.

Northvolt had already signaled that the construction of the factory in Heide could be delayed. The company cited local electricity prices and higher subsidies in the U.S. as reasons.

On Friday, Northvolt said preparations for the factory in Heide were still underway. Everything is being pushed forward to get started, it said. The question is which project will be prioritized - the one in North America or the one in Heide. Northvolt builds its batteries with renewable energies, so the Heide site is very suitable because it has a lot of wind power. In the final stage of development, batteries for one million electric cars a year could be produced in Heide.

Habeck had said Thursday that Northvolt had looked around Europe for a site and "basically" decided on Heide, mainly because of the large amount of renewable energy. The Inflation Reduction Act, with its formula that cars must be produced in the U.S. if they get the subsidies there, opened up that "basically decision" even more, he said. Habeck said Northvolt is still open to the Heide site. The decision will be made in the first quarter, he said.

In December, Northvolt's managing director for Germany, Christofer Haux, had reiterated its readiness for the billion-dollar project to the economic committee of the Kiel state parliament. "We need this factory for our expansion," Haux said. "But the framework conditions have to be right." There are challenges, he said, with energy prices in Germany./hoe/DP/stw