Total, Saft, to launch $221 mn plant to manufacture European EV batteries

Total, Saft, to launch $221 mn plant to manufacture European EV batteries
Published: 1 February 2020 - 6:10 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

Major energy player Total announced on Thursday its plan to develop a joint venture (JV) with battery firm Saft to combine industry know-how to develop EV battery manufacturing activity in France.

The JV, dubbed Automotive Cell Company (ACC), will leverage cutting-edge R&D, notably provided by Saft, in order to produce EV batteries starting in 2023.

The technology used will offer the highest level of energy performance, both in terms of range and charging time, and a lower carbon footprint than that of the competition, setting a new standard in Europe, Saft said.

The first phase of the project focuses on R&D, including building a pilot plant on the land of Saft’s Nersac facility. The $221 million plant is scheduled to start up in mid-2021.

The project will generate around 200 high-skilled jobs in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to develop, qualify and commercially scale up new, high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

This first phase will trigger the investment decision for a large-scale production plant (8 GWh initially, rising to 24 GWh later on) in the northern Hauts-de-France region, followed by a second one of equal capacity in Germany, in order to reach 48 GWh of combined capacity by 2030. Such capacity would represent production of one million batteries a year, or around 10-15% of the European market. Ultimately, nearly €5 billion will be required to complete this ambitious programme.

Patrick Pouyanné, chairman and CEO of Total, said: “In 2015, Total set an ambition to become the responsible energy major. With that in mind, we acquired Saft, a major battery maker, in 2016, primarily to develop energy storage to support the growth of intermittent renewable energies such as solar and wind. The fast-growing development of electric mobility offers Total, via Saft, another opportunity for growth and commitment to a decarbonized economy.”

Pouyanné added: “With the support of French, German and European authorities, we will deploy our best expertise and technologies alongside our partner to create a competitive European battery industry.”

The Automotive Cell Company (ACC) will be a 50-50 Saft and Groupe PSA/Opel joint venture for the pilot production line. During the commercial production phase, Saft’s share in ACC will decline to 33%.

European context

In 2019, the European Union set ambitious, binding targets to quickly expand the sale of electric vehicles. The European market for automotive batteries is estimated to reach around 400 GWh in 2030, or 15 times current needs, corresponding to more than seven million electric vehicles.

European automakers, therefore, need to plan their battery supply strategy, since batteries represent more than a third of an electric vehicle’s added value.

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