Renault signs EV battery deals with Envision, Verkor – to set up multibillion plants in Douai, northern France

The Renault Group has signed partnership agreements with China’s Envision AESC and France’s Verkor, a move which will see both firms supply battery packs for its electric vehicle production hub in northern France, Automotive News Europe reports.

Envision revealed plans to invest up to 2 billion euros (about RM10 billion) in a new factory in Douai that would create 2,500 new jobs by 2030. The plant is said to have an initial capacity of 9 gigawatt hours in 2024, with the aim of reaching 24 gWh by 2030. The Renault 5 EV is said to be among the first models to receive these batteries.

Meanwhile, the automaker signed a memorandum of understanding with French start-up Verkor to co-develop and manufacture high-performance batteries, including the possibility of owning a stake upwards of 20% in the fledgling firm.

“The combination of these two partnerships with Renault ElectriCity will create nearly 4,500 direct jobs in France by 2030, while developing a robust manufacturing ecosystem in the heart of Europe,” Renault said in a statement. With the French state as its most powerful shareholder (15.01% stake), Renault has come under pressure to preserve jobs and keep EV technology in the country.

Despite this latest development, Envision CEO Lei Zhang said its plant in Douai has a permitted capacity of 43 gWh by 2030, a target he said can be achieved if deals are reached with other automakers. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said Envision is in talks with other major carmakers for batteries made in Douai.

“We have high expectations for growth in batteries. France is strategic for Envision,” he said, adding that the group’s total annual sales was US$8 billion (RM33.2 billion) last year.

As for the deal with Verkor, Renault said their new plant will be operational in 2023 with an initial output of 16 gWh, of which 10 gWh will go to Renault. Production could reach 50 gWh in 2030 with 20 gWh going to the automaker. It added that these battery packs will be used for larger, pricier models in the line-up, including Alpine cars.

The report said both Envision and Verkor executives view the availability of low-carbon power in France to be a selling point for setting up battery plants. In a phone interview, Verkor co-founder Olivier Dufour said: “France has big sources of carbon-free electricity through nuclear, hydro and renewables.”

The new deals represent a welcome foreign investment into the country’s beleaguered industrial sector, and come amid the EU’s push to increase the region’s battery output, a business that has long been dominated by China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) and LG Energy Solution. Renault may also be phasing out its battery supply agreement with LG Energy Solution by 2025.

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