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As the demand for EVs grows in Europe. France alone will need at least one or two battery gigafactories this decade. That’s where Verkor comes in. Alongside its partners Schneider Electric, EIT InnoEnergy and GROUPE IDEC, the French start-up is planning to build a gigafactory to accelerate the production capacity of low-carbon batteries in southern Europe.

The facility will require an initial investment of €1.6bn and will create more than 2,000 direct jobs while supporting thousands more in its supply chain and ecosystem. The search for 200+ hectares of land is already underway.

We talked to Benoit Lemaignan, Verkor’s CEO, about the need for a gigafactory in Southern Europe and how France will benefit, post-Covid.

“Our team is made up of industrial entrepreneurs who have accumulated vast experience in the field, especially in battery-cell manufacturing. We are multinational and growing fast with the addition of new talent from all over the world. We are working in an agile, fast-follower mode to bring locally manufactured, low-CO2 battery cells to the market.”

Verkor and partners have an ambitious timeline for the plant. “Combined with the expertise of our strategic partners, I am confident that we are aligning the winning conditions to start the construction of a highly efficient manufacturing Gigafactory in 2022,  deliver our first cells in 2023, and stepping up of industrial activities, key to accelerating low carbon mobility in Europe.”

What will speed up the acceleration of EVs is customer adoption; the more people will have them, the more people will try them, the more people will love them

Photo Benoit Corporate

One of Verkor’s partners, EIT InnoEnergy, is an investor in sustainable energy innovation.

Diego Pavia, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy, states: “The first Verkor Gigafactory will help bridge the gap between Europe’s planned demand and currently forecasted European supply in this decade. Verkor’s unique value proposition on manufacturing optimisation and excellence is welcome.

“The strategic partnerships they are building make us confident that Verkor will deliver. Coupled with the Covid recovery, the initiative will further accelerate the French and European battery value chain, from mining to recycling, and boost the growth of hundreds of businesses across France and Europe.”

Pavia adds: “Anchored in our work with the European Battery Alliance, we are on a mission to achieve a sustainable battery value chain in Europe. By locating the site in France, we can produce batteries with a carbon footprint nearly four times lower than that of China. France also boasts a highly-skilled workforce and industry players across the entire value chain.”

Christel Galbrun-Noel, Mobility Segment President at Schneider Electric, comments: “We are excited to support Verkor’s creation and share our technical and manufacturing
expertise. This brings together the best of energy management and industrial expertise to buildgreen, competitive batteries as part of our commitment to help the European transition to electric vehicles.”

We asked Lemaignan, post-Covid, how will France and its economy benefit from the gigafactory? “Covid has increased the need to relocate value chains into Europe in general, and into member states in particular, and in particular in the automotive cluster. The Gigafactory will provide local batteries, thereby saving on a high logistic cost and hassle of bringing them from Asia or other remote places.”

Finally, we asked him what else needs to be done to promote the adoption of EVs in southern Europe.

“A lot of measures are already in place (EU legislation, bonuses, incentives to build EVs locally), but more than anything else, what will speed up the acceleration of EVs is customer adoption; the more people will have them, the more people will try them, the more people will love them. Customer satisfaction is very strong with EVs (silence, automatic braking, ease of recharging, no emissions),” concludes Lemaignan.

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