France is set to open its first electric car battery factory in Lens, Hauts-de-France, in a major industrial step forward for the country.
The factory, which will open on May 30, is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s goals to reindustrialise France and to establish independence in the sector away from China.
The Elysée has even said it could start exporting ‘made in France’ batteries by the end of the decade.
The factory, so large that it has been dubbed a ‘gigafactory’, is a project from ACC (Automotive Cell Company), a company owned in equal parts by TotalEnergies, Stellantis (a partnership between PSA and Fiat-Chrysler), and Mercedes-Benz.
Production is set to begin this summer. ACC is aiming for an annual capacity of 13 GWh by the end of 2024, with 600 direct jobs created. It is then aiming to reach production capacity of 40 GWh (the equivalent of 800,000 batteries per year, and 2,000 jobs, by the end of 2030.
‘Self-sufficient by 2027’
Until now, France has suffered in its battery production compared to China and the US. This is because China controls much of the supply chain for the major metals used in the process, including nickel, cobalt, and manganese.
But now France aims to be self-sufficient in electric car batteries by 2027. Like other European countries, France is set to ban the sale of new combustion vehicles from 2035.
There are only a handful of similar projects in Europe, but this is set to change in the next few years, with around 50 similar ventures having been announced for France alone.
Dunkirk ‘Battery Valley’
Projects include a plan by the Chinese-Japanese company AESC-Envision, in Douai (Nord), which will start creating batteries for Renault in 2025. Similarly, the start-up Verkor (supported by Renault, Schneider Electric, and Arkema) is set to launch production in Dunkirk in mid-2025.
The Taiwanese group ProLogium is also set to open a production plant, also in Dunkirk, at the end of 2026.
Industry professional group la Plateforme de l'automobile (PFA), has said that these ‘gigafactories’ will create 20,000 jobs by the end of 2030. To this end, in mid-April, the industry announced its aim to train 13,000 people to ‘respond to the needs’ of France’s so-called new ‘Battery Valley’ in Dunkirk.
In fact, on May 12, Mr Macron announced another project for Dunkirk: a production site for cathodes - one of the two electrodes that make up a battery - financed by China's XTC, and France's Orano.