France opens huge "gigafactory" to make batteries for electric cars

    WORLD  30 May 2023 - 20:40

    France officially opened its first electric car battery plant on May 30, the first step in the government's plan to get the French industry manufacturing millions of electric vehicles by 2030. 

    Measuring the length of six football pitches, the so-called "gigafactory" between the towns of Billy-Berclau and Douvrin in the north of France aims to supply 500,000 batteries per year by the end of the decade.

    It is owned by Automotive Cells Company, a partnership between French energy giant TotalEnergies, Germany's Mercedes-Benz, and US-European carmaker Stellantis, which produces a range of brands including Peugeot, Fiat, and Chrysler.

    The factory was inaugurated on May 30 in a ceremony attended by several French ministers, as well as officials from Germany and Italy, RFI reports. 

    Both those countries plan to open battery factories of their own by 2025, two among some 50 similar projects that have been announced in the European Union.

    'Battery Valley'

    France also plans to build another three battery factories in the same northern region of Hauts-de-France, which has been nicknamed "Battery Valley".

    One will be located near the city of Douai, while two others will be in Dunkirk.

    Together it is hoped that the projects could create some 20,000 new jobs over the next few years, including between 1,400 and 2,000 at the site in Billy-Berclau.

    But some have expressed concern that fewer workers will be needed to make electric batteries than the traditional car parts that the region currently produces.

    Workers at a nearby engine factory also owned by Stellantis, which the group has slated to close within the next two years, called a protest to coincide with the inauguration on Tuesday.

    Only 400 of the plant's 1,200 employees are expected to be rehired at the new site, CGT union rep Fabrice Jamart told RFI.

    "We're not against the ACC factory, it still means jobs, but they have to be extra jobs," he said.

    "The ratio is admittedly not the same," one of the workers to have made the switch, Vincent Bauchot, told RFI.

    "But that said, we're really lucky to have this opportunity here in the region ... Other regions would love to have gigafactories like we do, so you just have to take it.

    "We're heading for more than 20,000 jobs, and you take every job you can get."

    Next step: electric cars

    Production at the new site is expected to begin from the summer.

    The French government has set a target of producing two million electric vehicles per year by 2030, five years before the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is banned across the EU.

    France aims to produce enough batteries for its own car industry by 2027 and ultimately become an exporter.

    The sector is currently dominated by China, where energy is far cheaper than in Europe.

    The new gigafactory is expected to consume as much electricity as a town of 190,000 people.

     

    Caliber.Az

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