France and Germany launch pilot plant for electric car batteries

France and Germany on Thursday officially launched a pilot factory to produce batteries for electric vehicles.

The plant in Nersac, western France, is a joint venture between French energy firm Total’s battery-making subsidiary Saft and French carmaker PSA, which also owns the German-based Opel brand.

It should start operating for research and development purposes by mid-2021, according to the companies, reaching full capacity by 2023.

French President Emmanuel Macron, launching the facility with German Education Minister Anja Karliczek, said the project was an investment in Europe’s sovereignty and the environment.

Batteries for electric vehicles are currently produced mainly in Korea and China, and represent 30 to 40 per cent of the vehicle’s value, Macron argued.

Speeding up the transition to electric vehicles without a European battery production capacity would “put us in the position of depending on these Asian battery makers, who could raise the prices as they saw fit,” Macron said.

The European Commission last month approved research funding of up to 3.2 billion euros (3.5 billion dollars) for 17 battery producers spread across seven EU member states.

“The pilot production that we now have here is basically the precursor for series cell production,” Karliczek said.

Industrial production is planned for two sites, one in France and one in Germany, according to Saft, with a capacity of 1 million batteries per year by 2030.

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