Company backed by European engineering giants exits stealth mode with plan to deliver French gigafactories
The race to deliver Europe's first battery gigafactory intensified further last week, after French start up Verkor exited stealth mode and unveiled ambitious plans to deliver up to 50GWh of battery production capacity.
The new venture is backed by green investment specialist EIT InnoEnergy, engineering giant Schneider Electric, and property developer GROUPE IDEC.
The company said its aim was to accelerate the production capacity of low-carbon batteries in southern Europe so as to meet growing demand for electric vehicles and stationary storage systems.
Production in Verkor's first gigafactory is scheduled to begin in 2023, with a capacity of 16 GWh of battery cells that can be increased to 50GWh "in line with market dynamics".
The company said the facility would require an initial investment of €1.6bn and would create more than 2,000 direct jobs while supporting thousands more in its supply chain and ecosystem. It added that the search for a 200+ hectare site is already underway.
Benoit Lemaignan, CEO at Verkor, said the company had assembled a team that 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," he added. "We are working in an agile, fast-follower mode to bring locally manufactured, low-CO2 battery cells to the market. 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."
The company is seeking to tap into a fast-expanding market, with demand for energy storage capacity expected to soar in the coming years.
As such, efforts are underway across Europe to develop a competitive battery manufacturing ecosystem that can ease the current reliance on imported technologies.
"The first Verkor gigafactory will help bridge the gap between Europe's planned demand and currently forecasted European supply in this decade," said Diego Pavia, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy. "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."
He added that the project would also support EIT InnoEnergy's work to develop a European Battery Alliance, which is bringing together companies and investors from across the energy storage value chain to help accelerate the development of the nascent industry.
"By locating the site in France, we can produce batteries with a carbon footprint nearly four times lower than that of China," he argued. "France also boasts a highly-skilled workforce and industry players across the entire value chain."
However, countries across Europe are also rushing to meet growing demand from the fast-expanding electric vehicle (EV) industry.
The German government has made energy storage a key component of its €40bn green stimulus plan, while EV giant Tesla is advancing plans to deliver its first European gigafactory at a site near Berlin.
Tesla is also reportedly considering sites for a potential second European gigafactory in the UK, while start-up Britishvolt is hoping to deliver the country's first gigafactory at a site in South Wales.
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