BILLY-BERCLAU: France launched its first battery factory for electric cars on Tuesday, taking a big step in its race to build up a sector dominated by China. Building up the battery industry is at the heart of President Emmanuel Macron’s “reindustrialization” plan for France, with a clutch of factories set to emerge in the north of the country over the next three years.
The “gigafactory” opening in Billy-Berclau is owned by Automotive Cells Company, a partnership between French energy giant TotalEnergies, Germany’s Mercedes-Benz and US-European automaker Stellantis, which produces a range of brands including Peugeot, Fiat and Chrysler. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and the country’s energy transition and industry ministers will attend the inauguration, along with German and Italian officials. The heads of Mercedes, Stellantis and TotalEnergies were at the event.
The factory is the length of six football pitches. Production is due to begin this summer. Elected officials and business leaders hope to turn the Hauts-de-France region into “Battery Valley” — the electric car industry’s answer to Silicon Valley. Sino-Japanese group AESC-Envision is building a plant near the city of Douai which will supply French automaker Renault from early 2025. French startup Verkor is scheduled to begin production at a facility in Dunkirk from mid-2025 while Taiwan’s ProLogium has also chosen the coastal city for its first European factory, with output to start in 2026.
China, US competition
Europe is racing to step up its production of batteries and electric vehicles as the European Union has set a 2035 deadline to phase out the sale of new fossil fuel cars. Around 50 battery factory projects have been announced in the EU in recent years. The French government has set a target of producing two million electric vehicles per year by 2030, according to the economy ministry. The ministry said the ACC plant will supply 500,000 vehicles per year by then. China is the world leader in electric car battery production and also dominates the production of the raw materials needed to make them. Europe also faces stiff competition from the United States, which is heavily subsidizing the sector through the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $370 billion in clean energy incentives. — AFP