• Photo: DB Schenker

30.05.2024 By: Josef Müller

Artikel Nummer: 49814

Presented at a premiere in Premstätten

Austria’s largest centre that stores and handles lithium batteries opens. It’s something of a pioneering achievement that the logistics services provider DB Schenker presented in Austria in mid-April. The country’s largest logistics centre that can safely handle and store lithium batteries was opened recently in the tranquil and picturesque village of Premstätten, near Graz, in the province of Styria. ITJ correspondent Josef Müller attended the opening ceremony.

The ceremony celebrating the opening of DB Schenker Austria’s new facility was attended by customers and partners as well as representatives of the authorities involved in the development of this ambitious project. As many as 2,000 lithium batteries can be handled and stored in a compound covering 4,000 m2. The special warehouse is a part of a new DB Schenker logistics centre in Premstätten that covers an area of approximately 14,000 m2.

The logistician handles various contract services in the complex with a floor area of approximately 35,000 m2. In the lithium warehouse the company manages contract logistics services for a Chinese battery manufacturer that supplies the vehicle manufacturer Magna.

Crucial cooperation with authorities

The parts are also installed in Mercedes-Benz electric cars, with DB Schenker in charge of the professional unpacking of the sea freight containers that arrive from China, as well as of warehousing and just-in-sequence deliveries in special containers to the production line at Magna’s manufacturing plant in Graz.

“This is a demanding job and a pretty big challenge,” as Alexander Winter, the CEO of DB Schenker’s Southeast European region, told the ITJ at the opening.

The lithium-ion batteries, which are composed of various individual cells, are extremely powerful, due to their special design and the materials used. This means that their capacity remains constant, even during prolonged operation. Very strict regulations have to be observed during transport and storage, however, because in the worst case they can ignite, and then they can’t be extinguished in a conventional way. If the ignite, then very specialised fire extinguishing equipment and technical know-how are needed to avoid major damage.

The new logistics centre with 10,000 pallet spaces was designed and built in its entirety in just under a year; DB Schenker is the tenant of the property.

Setting up a lithium storage facility of this size requires a lot of preparatory work, with the company needing to obtain numerous permits and to check the local fire brigade’s readiness for action in an emergency. In Premstätten this meant the municipality’s volunteer brigade had to be brought on board. Such a warehouse requires special technical facilities for fire protection and safety, as well as a sophisticated overall emergency concept.

Safety, protection against fires

“This warehouse makes us Austrian pioneers in the field,” as Winter explained proudly, adding that the development of the plant was successful thanks to cooperative support from the authorities. The Chinese battery manufacturer is the first customer in this warehouse, and capacities are still available for others, was Winter’s message to other potential users.

Thomas Jakob-Kaeferle, a dangerous goods expert from the GSSA Mayer-Veith, which specialises in dangerous goods and was involved in this project, spoke about how demanding the storage and transport of lithium batteries are.

He underlined the fact that the centre is “the safest of its kind in the country.” Fire protection is a big issue, because if a fire isn’t handled properly, then all hell can quickly break loose. Damage, overcharging or overheating can lead to an uncontrolled release of stored energy.

When lithium-ion cells in the unit lose heat, then the battery heats up. Memory cells can get extremely hot and rapidly heat each other up too, which leads to a chain reaction. The battery can explode, 1,300°C-hot metal parts can fly around and cause fatal damage. This probably won’t ever happen in Premstätten.


Related news