Last Thursday, France and Germany agreed to jointly invest in the European production of electric vehicle batteries, taking on China and the United States in what is emerging as one of the most competitive industries in the world.
Bruno Le Maire, the Finance Minister of France, said that the goal was to establish two production plants over the next four years, one in Germany and one in France, with approximately 1,500 employees in each.
Initially, he said that the plants would produce enhanced liquid batteries before moving to solid-state technology by 2025-26.
Le Maire said that a total of 5-6 billion euros (£4.2-£5.1 billion) would be invested.
Le Maire stated: “This is of strategic importance for Europe.” He spoke alongside Peter Altmaier, his German counterpart, and Maros Sefcovic, the European commissioner for energy whose approval was needed for the provision of public subsidies.
The French Finance Minister added that the deal would allow Europe to continue to be competitive against China and the United States.
Earlier this week, Germany and France asked the European Commission to approve state subsidies for a cross-border battery cell consortium including German subsidiary Opel, French battery maker Saft, and carmaker PSA.
In recent months, various battery projects have been announced including the formation of industry consortiums that are designed to reduce dependence on Asian battery supplies and make sure that European investment does not lag behind.
France’s Saft is owned by Total, an energy company. It produces a range of batteries, including for industrial applications and back-up power, but not yet for electric vehicles.
In 2018 it created an alliance with German industrial group Siemens, Manz and Solvay to develop a new generation of batteries.
The group will concentrate on advanced high-density lithium-ion and solid-state technology, targeting the market for electric vehicles and the marine and railway sectors, among others.
Recently, Saft also struck a deal to expand its presence in China.
Altmaier said that it was clear that electric vehicles were set to overturn the value chain of the global car industry, meaning that Europe had to make sure that it was well positioned to compete.
He stated: “The challenge for Europe is to continue to build the best and most successful cars in the world, and that is why we must build up industrial competence in those areas to which the value creation will shift,”
He added: “Our aim is not just to meet the European car industry’s demand.”
He continued: “We want to export internationally, making clear that batteries ‘made in Europe’ will be an important kitemark.”