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France’s First EV Battery Gigafac. Signals Self-Sufficiency

  • France opens first electric vehicle battery gigafactory, aiming for self-sufficiency by 2027.
  • ACC’s gigafactory near Lens to create 2,000 jobs and produce 800,000 batteries annually.
  • French government provided €1.3bn in state aid for ACC’s €7bn plan.
  • France’s “reindustrialization” plan challenges China’s dominance in the electric vehicle battery sector.
  • UK warned of losing the electric vehicle battery race; France takes steps to attract investment.

France has opened its first electric car battery plant, marking a significant step in President Emmanuel Macron’s plan for “reindustrialization.” The Automative Cell Company’s (ACC) gigafactory, located near Lens in France’s former mining region, was inaugurated with the presence of three government ministers and local officials. This development is seen as France’s initial move to challenge China’s dominance in the electric vehicle battery sector.

ACC, a joint venture equally owned by TotalEnergies, Stellantis (the maker of Jeep), and Mercedes-Benz, has received a substantial €1.3 billion state aid package from France, Germany, and Italy. This financial support is part of a comprehensive €7 billion plan aimed at constructing a series of new battery production facilities across these countries.

The Lens plant is set to commence production this summer and is projected to generate 2,000 jobs, including 400 positions in the first year alone. The facility aims to manufacture 800,000 batteries annually. It serves as the first of three planned gigafactories, with additional sites planned in Germany and Italy.

The region where the plant is located, referred to as “Battery Valley,” is less than 40 miles away from the British coast. This area, which has experienced industrial decline, has attracted significant attention. In fact, ProLogium, a Taiwanese battery maker, recently selected Dunkirk in the same region for its first foreign facility.

Img. Credit: The Guardian

Macron’s vision is to stimulate job creation by encouraging companies to invest in new factories. Battery Valley has received strong support from the French president, who unveiled a range of green measures and tax credits, including subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs). These initiatives aim to attract billions of euros in investments, “reindustrialize” France, create employment opportunities, and raise the manufacturing sector’s contribution from 10% to 15% of the country’s economic output.

In contrast, the United Kingdom has been cautioned about losing the electric vehicle battery race. Three major automakers, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, and Stellantis, which owns Vauxhall, Peugeot, and Citroën, have urged the UK government to renegotiate the Brexit deal due to concerns that certain elements may threaten the future of the nation’s automotive industry. Furthermore, the collapse of Britishvolt, a startup aiming to establish a gigafactory in Blyth, Northumberland, has raised further concerns.

However, there is a positive development for the UK’s battery industry, as the Tata group, owner of Jaguar Land Rover, is reportedly considering establishing a car battery plant in Somerset, choosing Britain over Spain.

France has set a goal of achieving self-sufficiency in vehicle battery production by 2027. This endeavor may face challenges due to China’s dominance in the extraction and production of crucial elements like nickel, cobalt, and manganese required for lithium-ion batteries.

As part of the European Union’s sustainability efforts, the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from 2035.

While the ACC factory’s inauguration brings good news to the region with high unemployment rates, French union representatives have expressed less enthusiasm. They point out that the employment gains from the gigafactory are expected to be offset by job losses at a nearby factory producing petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicle engines. This factory is set to close by 2025, potentially affecting 1,200 workers.