President Macron launches new EV battery pilot line
In January 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Saft’s Nersac plant to launch a new €200 million pilot line for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The pilot line is the first phase of a strategic joint venture planned between Total/Saft and Groupe PSA/Opel, to be known as Automotive Cell Company (ACC).
The visit, on January 30, marked the first time a French president stepped foot inside a Saft factory. President Macron toured the workshop to see first-hand how Saft makes lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells.
He then addressed employees, customers and local dignitaries and shared his vision:
"Industry and ecology - One might think that these two notions are in opposition, that one should choose between producing or protecting the environment. But when these two notions come together, it is employment for our citizens and work for a future that is more respectful of our planet. The challenge for companies is to reconcile productivity and ecology, through innovation and the know-how developed. Employees at Saft’s pilot line in Nersac, France, are showing (by producing the electric batteries of the future) that this alliance is possible."
The 24,000 m2 pilot line will start production in 2021 to develop, qualify and industrialize new technologies for high-performance Li-ion batteries for the EV market.
It will create 200 skilled jobs in the region and will also generate business for local suppliers.
The next-generation batteries will provide 20 percent more range and will charge twice as fast as current EV batteries. This will help EVs to become more competitive than internal combustion engines from 2023/4 onwards, increasing their popularity and supporting the shift to the low-carbon economy.
ACC aims to produce the most efficient EV batteries on the market. This efficiency is categorized by faster charging, higher energy density, lower carbon footprint, high reliability, and a long service life. They are also intended to operate under more extreme conditions than competing batteries.
Speaking to guests and employees at the end of his visit, President Macron said: “You are the first step in a much larger and ambitious program that will create 2,500 jobs in France and as many in Germany."
Industry and ecology - One might think that these two notions are in opposition. But when these two notions come together, it is employment for our citizens and work for a future that is more respectful of our planet. The challenge for companies is to reconcile productivity and ecology. Employees at Saft’s pilot line in Nersac, France, are showing that this alliance is possible.Emmanuel Macron French President
European supply chain for EV batteries
The pilot line is the first step in the program that combines Saft’s expertise in batteries and PSA’s automotive knowledge.
The long-term vision is to establish ACC as a European leader for EV batteries to ensure the competitiveness of the automotive sector. Batteries account for 30-40 percent of a vehicle’s value and Europe’s EV market is set to reach around 400 GWh by 2030, equating to seven million vehicles, or 15 times current demand.
During the pilot phase, ACC will be a 50/50 joint venture. However, Total’s stake will reduce to one third, opening the door to other partners for large-scale manufacturers.
Following the pilot phase, the partners will trigger a decision to develop two gigafactories at PSA’s sites in Douvrin, northern France and Kaiserslautern, Germany. These will have a combined production capacity of 48 GWh capacity by 2030, equivalent to 10-15 percent of demand from Europe.
This ambitious program will establish a strategically important manufacturing hub to supply car manufacturers in Europe and internationally. The French government is describing ACC as an ‘Airbus-style consortium for batteries’.
Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total said: “In 2015, Total set an ambition to become the responsible energy major. With that in mind, we acquired Saft 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.”
“With the support of French, German and European authorities, we will deploy our best expertise and technologies alongside our partner PSA, to create a competitive European battery industry,” he added.
Saft’s plant at Nersac was chosen for the project as it already develops and produces Li-ion batteries for grid energy storage, forklifts, aircraft tractors, electric buses, data centers and trains, among other applications. It has been manufacturing industrial batteries for over 40 years, and Li-ion batteries for more than 10 years. In addition, it is close to Saft’s main research and development center in Bordeaux.
You are the first step in a much larger and ambitious program that will create 5,000 jobs in France and Germany.Emmanuel Macron French President
Looking ahead, ACC’s future developments will be informed by new battery technology currently under development by the European battery alliance. Launched by Saft in 2018, together with four industrial champions: Manz, Siemens, Solvay and Umicore, the program includes the development of solid-state batteries for multiple markets, from e-mobility to energy storage systems and specialty industries.
After developing high-performance Li-ion batteries, ACC will then build on the alliance’s research to produce solid-state batteries for the EV market.