France’s “Battery Valley” expects benefits from Xinhua’s Chinese know-how

A self-driving bus made by China’s CRRC Electric Vehicle is seen during its test drive in Paris, France, September 17, 2021. A 12-meter self-driving bus made by China’s CRRC Electric Vehicle went for test drive on open roads in Paris this weekend. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)

The ‘battery valley’ in northern France aims to leverage the strengths of several countries, including Chinese players with a notable advantage in battery and electric vehicle technology.

LILLE, France, March 3 (Xinhua) — In the “battery valley” in northern France, Chinese companies are actively participating in local projects to produce electric vehicles and their batteries, a partnership widely appreciated by a region keen on green reindustrialization want to.

With four ‘gigafactories’ announced in three years, the ‘battery valley’ is interested in ‘capturing strengths from all countries, including Chinese players who have gained a real lead in battery and electric vehicle technology , so that we can also benefit from their knowledge. -how,” says Yann Pitollet, CEO of Nord France Invest.

Announced in 2020 and in production since May 2023, the ACC Gigafactory is a joint venture between TotalEnergies, Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz. For the other three, invested respectively by Chinese group Envision AESC, French start-up Verkor and solid battery specialist Prologium, the region has “put in place administrative processes that allow it to move quickly,” Pitollet said.

“We are not worried that everything will go well,” he said, adding that the Envision AESC plant, announced in 2021, is under construction and will be put into operation soon, and the Prologium plant, announced by the French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2023, is in the study phase.

In addition, at the end of 2023, the Chinese group and Prologium plants.

In January this year, two new production lines started producing battery boxes for electric vehicles in the joint venture established by the Renault Group and the Chinese car supplier Minth in Ruitz in the ‘battery valley’.

“What really interests us is this partnership so that we can benefit from the know-how of these Chinese companies that have made very, very rapid progress, especially in the field of electric vehicles, but also in upstream technologies,” said Pitollet .

For Renault Group, which is working with Envision AESC for the battery gigafactory, the success of the joint venture with Minth is a model for other projects. The joint venture, which was launched on July 13 last year, managed to start production in less than three months with two new lines installed.

A battery box appears to be just a box, but it must actually perform three main functions: sealing, cooling and precision, says Jean-Luc Bois, director of the Renault Electricity plant in Ruitz.

“Minth’s experience with these production lines is the culmination of a number of other lines that have allowed them to learn,” he said. “One of the advantages of working with a Chinese partner is this knowledge about the product and the process. Together we are stronger than starting from scratch alone.”

A self-driving bus (R), made by China’s CRRC Electric Vehicle, is seen during a test drive in the suburb of Paris, France, December 7, 2022. The self-driving bus, made by China’s CRRC Electric Vehicle, has completed its test drive at the public road and ready to start official operations with passengers. (Xinhua/Gaojing)

Renault aims to concentrate its industrial activities on its electric cars in France. It has grouped all activities related to electric cars in Ampere, a new branch that was officially launched in November 2023.

Renault Ampere wants to produce 400,000 electric vehicles per year in France by 2025. The national goal is to produce almost 2 million electric and hybrid vehicles in France by 2030. To this end, almost all elements related to the electric car value chain need to be located in France.

So the ‘battery valley’ must work quickly, Pitollet said. “What car manufacturers – Stellantis, Renault or customers elsewhere in Europe, such as major German brands – expect is that production should be effective and at industrial level by 2025.”

The CEO of Nord France Invest described his region as “already effectively the heart of the electric sector in France” with the ambition to become “one of the poles for electric vehicles in Europe”.

In addition to assets such as the availability of land and electricity, he relies on access to skilled labor to attract more investment. The region is pushing for an alliance of training organizations to train 20,000 people in the coming years.

The region’s University of Artois opened a new school in September to “train engineers of the future who will work in a more electrified world.” University students are already being trained at the Minth-Renault factory.

“We put them in an industrial situation where they see the reality of today’s technology,” said Gabriel Velu, vice president of the university. “France adopted electricity a little late, so we need others to help us catch up.”

For the Hauts-de-France region, the construction of a ‘battery valley’ will mean a revival of green reindustrialization within a few years.

This “allows us to think about the equipment, the local production of parts for the vehicle, all the questions about supply and ultimately the recovery of waste,” says Olivier Gacquerre, mayor of Bethune and also chairman of a group of about 100 nearby municipalities. including Ruitz.

“So for us it is a fundamental economic issue that will also allow us to address social issues – if you have the economy, it helps families to settle and it helps children build a future,” he added to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *