Verkor has announced its intention to produce battery cells for electric cars on a gigawatt scale in Europe, among other things. The newly founded French company relies on well-known partners and is already looking for a site for the factory.
With the support of EIT InnoEnergy, Schneider Electric and Groupe IDEC, Verkor is planning to build a cell factory with an initial capacity of 16 GWh in 2022, with operations to start in 2023. The capacity is to be increased to 50 GWh at a later date in line with market dynamics. The company expects an initial investment of 1.6 billion euros. The partnership with the EU-funded innovation institute EIT InnoEnergy should help with the financing.
Verkor was already founded a year ago with the support of EIT InnoEnergy but has been working in the background on its plans that have now been presented. The Groupe IDEC will mainly help in finding a location and building the plant, while Schneider Electric will contribute its energy management and automation know-how to get production up and running and optimise it. In doing so, the company intends to rely on existing lithium-ion technologies instead of developing new cell chemistries.
According to Schneider Electric, the company sees itself as being on a different path from the Automotive Cell Company (ACC). The joint venture of Saft and PSA is planning to build a battery cell production facility in Northern France by 2023, as well as in Kaiserslautern. ACC, however, wants to develop the next generation of battery cells and has already opened a pilot production facility at the end of January. Verkor, on the other hand, says that he wants to focus on the production of the current generation.
The search for more than 200 hectares of land for the factory is apparently already underway in the south of France. The company cites the presence of “prominent car manufacturers, “leading energy suppliers” and “proven industrial capabilities” as advantages of the region. It also mentions “France’s affordable and low-carbon electricity” – unless Verkor wants to rely on solar and wind power on a larger scale, it is likely that this refers primarily to electricity from the nuclear power plants that are widespread in France. Solar panels can be seen on the roof of a rendering of the planned factory building, but it is not clear whether they will be built.
For the expected growth in demand, two to three giga factories would be necessary in France alone. “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”, says Benoit Lemaignan, CEO of Verkor.
Lemaignan previously worked for Airbus, among others, and has been with EIT InnoEnergy since 2019 where he was then assigned to the new company Verkor. The management team listed on the company’s homepage have significant experience in the battery cell sector. CTO Christophe Mille worked in battery cell development at BMW until his last position, having previously spent six years developing cells for Tesla. CCO Philippe Chain was also formerly with Tesla, but then moved to Audi and worked on the development of the e-tron.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.
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