Renault has now officially confirmed that the Chinese battery manufacturer Envision AESC will build a battery factory at Renault’s Douai site in northern France. The French carmaker also announced further collaborations, such as with the French start-up Verkor and possibly with ACC.
Before the weekend, Reuters and Bloomberg as well as the French authority Commission Nationale du Débat Public (CNDP) already reported on the planned construction of the battery factory in northern France, although the location had not yet been definitively clarified, at least in the CNDP’s report. Renault is now officially talking about a planned ‘Gigafactory’ at its plant in Douai. A capacity of 9 GWh is planned by 2024 and 24 GWh by 2030. As expected, a total capacity of 43 GWh is targeted by 2030, of which Renault is to purchase 24 GWh. The batteries from Douai are to be used in the future in the electric R5, among other vehicles.
The 2 billion-euro Envision AESC battery factory in Douai will complement the recently announced Renault ElectriCity mobility industry cluster. The new umbrella company will bring together the electric car activities of the Douai, Maubeuge, and Ruitz plants in northern France and is expected to build 400,000 vehicles per year from 2025. The plans will be announced in more detail at a digital event on Wednesday, which is expected to focus on the French manufacturer’s comprehensive focus on e-mobility.
Ahead of the event, Renault is launching a cooperation with French start-up Verkor, announced in a memorandum of understanding. Together, the duo will develop and manufacture high-performance batteries for Renault’s electric cars from the C-segment upwards and for Alpine models. As part of the collaboration, Renault will take a 20 per cent stake in Verkor. As a first step, Renault and Verkor will set up a research and development centre (Verkor Innovation Centre) and a pilot line for the prototyping and production of battery cells and modules in France in 2022.
In a second phase, Verkor will build a gigafactory for high-performance batteries in France with an initial capacity of 10 GWh for the Renault Group from 2026, which could rise to 20 GWh by 2030. It has been clear since the middle of last year that the Grenoble-based startup, founded in 2019, wants to enter large-scale battery production. At the time, Verkor announced that, with the support of EIT InnoEnergy, Schneider Electric and Groupe IDEC, it planned to build a cell factory with an initial capacity of 16 GWh in 2022, with operations starting in 2023. The search for a location is said to focus more on the south of France. No new information has surfaced in the meantime.
But back to Renault: the combination of the two new partnerships with the Renault ElectriCity industrial cluster is, according to the French company, “expected to create nearly 4,500 direct jobs in France by 2030 while developing a robust battery manufacturing ecosystem in the heart of Europe”. At the same time, Renault stresses that the agreements with Envision AESC and Verkor leave the existing supply relationship with cell manufacturer LG Energy Solution untouched. LG currently supplies the battery modules for Renault’s electric car range, including the upcoming electric Mégan.
Meanwhile, like all major manufacturers, the carmaker is also trying to get a foot in the door of promising future battery technologies. With this in mind, Renault is in talks with the Automotive Cells Company (ACC) battery cell joint venture, formed last year, about Renault possibly joining from 2027. Renault says that research within the alliance is also continuing with a view to using solid-state battery technology from 2030.
The French manufacturer aims to achieve CO2 neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050, with electric sales already accounting for 90 per cent of total sales at the Renault brand by 2030. “Our battery strategy builds on Renault Group’s ten years of experience and investment in the electric mobility value chain,” says Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group. “The latest strategic partnerships with Envision AESC and Verkor greatly bolster our position as we ensure the Europe-based production of one million electric vehicles by 2030. This marks a major milestone as we strengthen our competitive edge, by rooting our Group in the underlying momentum of French industry and striving to reach our carbon neutrality objectives. The Group thus reaffirms its willingness to produce popular, affordable, and cost-effective electric cars in France.”
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke, France.
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