After at least a year in stealth mode, French startup Verkor has announced plans to build a battery gigafactory in France. The facility, which is to open in 2023, will have an initial annual capacity of 16 GWh, which could be expanded to 50 GWh at a later date.
The new company says it will take a “fast follower” approach, using established Li-ion technology, rather than trying to develop new battery chemistries or formulas. “The idea is to be operational as quickly as possible,” said Lemaignan.
As demand for EVs in Europe grows, auto brands and policymakers are trying to build local battery manufacturing capacity, and break the dominance of Asian suppliers. “There is an acceleration in demand for electric vehicles, but we continue to import batteries from Asia,” said Verkor Chief Executive Benoit Lemaignan. “We must endow France with production capacity.”
Others are also working to build out a European battery industry. Swedish producer Northvolt is building a 40 GWh factory in Sweden that’s due to begin production next year, and is collaborating with Volkswagen to build a 20 GWh factory in Germany. Automotive Cell Company, a joint venture between the PSA Group and Total-owned battery maker Saft, plans to build an 8 GWh gigafactory in northern France by 2023, and a second 8 GWh gigafactory in southwest Germany.
“Verkor was founded in response to the growing gap between the expected demand for batteries and the committed and planned European supply,” says the company. “Indeed, the expected growth in demand this decade will require three to four gigafactories in France alone. By locating the site in France, we can produce batteries with a carbon footprint nearly four times lower than that of China.”