Saft teams for French battery gigafactory

Saft teams for French battery gigafactory

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

French battery maker Saft has teamed up with car maker PSA and Opel in a €1.3bn battery gigafactory joint venture.

The Automotive Cell Company (ACC) will use battery R&D from Saft to develop EV batteries for production starting in 2023. The technology aims to provide a longer range and shorter charging times for lithium ion batteris than the lithium competition, setting a new standard in Europe, says Saft. While it hasn’t commented on the type of technology there are many replacement materials such as silicon anode technology that could provide such a boost. 

The announcement comes as Toyota and Panasonic launch their joint venture in China for primatic battery cells.

The first phase of the ACC project focuses on R&D with a pilot plant on the land of Saft’s Nersac facility. The €200m plant is scheduled to start operation in mid-2021 around  200 high-skilled jobs in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to develop, qualify and commercially scale up new,high-performance lithium-ion batteries.  

This first phase will trigger the investment decision for a large-scale production gigafactory with a capacity of 8 GWh, rising to 24 GWh, in the northern Hauts-de-France region. This will be followed by a second gigafactory of equal capacity in Germany, reaching 48 GWh of combined capacity by 2030. That would represent production of one million batteries a year, or around 10-15 percent of the European market. Ultimately, nearly €5 billion will be required to complete this ambitious program.

Total, which owns Saft, and Groupe PSA expect to get nearly €1.3bn from the French, German and European Union authorities for the project as part of the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) initiative authorized by the European Commission. However the second pahse is depends on securing the approvals of the relevant antitrust authorities but is part of a huge move to boost battery production in Europe. 

The European Union set binding targets last year to expand the sale of electric vehicles, and the European market for automotive batteries is estimated to reach around 400 GWh in 2030, or 15 times current needs, to power over seven million electric vehicles.   

“In 2015, Total set an ambition to become the responsible energy major. With that in mind, we acquired Saft, a major battery maker, in 2016, primarily to develop energy storage to support the growth of intermittent renewable energies such as solar and wind. The fast-growing development of electric mobility offers Total, via Saft, another opportunity for growth and commitment to a decarbonized economy,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total. “With the support of French, German and European authorities, we will deploy our best expertise and technologies alongside our partner Groupe PSA, to create a competitive European battery industry.” 

“Our purpose is to offer citizens mobility options that are clean, safe and affordable. I am convinced that this project, with our partner Total/Saft, will create a benchmark player in automotive battery cell development and production in Europe. I would like to thank the French and German authorities, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Hauts-de-France regions and Rhineland-Palatinate state for their active support, which is decisive in the creation of a competitive business backed by Total and its affiliate Saft, Groupe PSA and Opel,” said Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board of Groupe PSA . 

The Automotive Cell Company (ACC) will be a 50-50 Saft and Groupe PSA/Opel joint venture for the pilot production line. During the commercial production phase, Saft’s share in ACC will decline to 33 percent.

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