Renault signs two electric vehicle battery partnerships

By Dominic Ellis
Renault Group enters into a strategic partnership with Envision AESC and signs MoU with Verkor as it steps up electric vehicle battery production

Renault Group has signed two partnerships as it steps up electric vehicle battery production programmes.

The group is entering into a strategic partnership with Envision AESC as it sets up a gigafactory in Douai, close to Renault ElectriCity, to support manufacture of latest technology, cost-competitive, low-carbon batteries to make electrical mobility more accessible in Europe.

As the battery arm of global green tech company Envision Group, it will invest up to €2 billion to produce latest technology, cost-competitive, low-carbon and safe batteries for electric models, including the future R5. Thanks to this partnership, Envision AESC forecasts 2,500 new jobs by 2030.

The proximity of the Envision AESC’s gigafactory to Renault ElectriCity production sites at Douai, Maubeuge and Ruitz, which will create 700 additional jobs in the Hauts-de-France region, means Renault Group can significantly boost its competitive edge and greatly improve the efficiency of its EV production chain.

Lei Zhang, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Envision Group, said it has the potential to create "thousands of new high value green jobs" as part of an end-to-end battery ecosystem in the region. The two partnerships with Renault ElectriCity industrial cluster will create nearly 4,500 direct jobs in France by 2030, while developing a robust battery manufacturing ecosystem in the heart of Europe.

Renault also plans to manufacture new high-performance battery cells with startup Verkor, and part of the initial output of Verkor’s first Gigafactory, starting construction in 2023, will be allocated to Renault’s premium vehicle programmes.

Under an MoU, initial capacity will reach 16 GWh, of which 10 GWh are for Renault Group, with a total annual capacity target of 50 GWh by 2030, of which 20 GWh will go to Renault Group. Verkor aims to build the most digital, sustainable, and efficient Gigafactory in Europe by embedding it in a competitive and transparent local value chain.

The group is to become a 20% shareholder in the French industrial company, joining EIT InnoEnergy, Groupe IDEC, Schneider Electric and Capgemini.

Verkor will now move ahead with its plans to build the Verkor Innovation Centre (VIC, pictured), an advanced research and development facility that will design innovative battery cells and modules.

The VIC, which will be located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in France, will also accommodate a pilot line for battery cell technology testing, module prototyping and smaller-scale manufacturing, as well as train a new generation of engineers. With the VIC, Verkor will bring to the market an entirely new approach to high performance battery manufacturing that is driven by resource efficiency, recycling and enhanced environmental performance.

Benoit Lemaignan, CEO and co-founder of Verkor, said it looks forward to delivering on its common vision to roll out e-mobility on a larger scale through this partnership. "This is a first step in a series of major announcements to come over the following weeks which will demonstrate our progress in our plan to generate up to 50 GWh of battery cell production capacity by 2030 – a cornerstone in developing a competitive, sovereign and sustainable battery supply chain in Europe.”

“By joining forces with Verkor, we are accelerating the production of high-performance low-carbon batteries in France, for Europe. This project will benefit from Verkor team’s cutting-edge skills in the cell industry. Attracting and retaining top global talents, coming from over 14 countries, the Verkor team capitalises on a unique experience in the battery field”, added Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group.

The investment forms part of Renault Group’s strategic 'Renaulution' plan, through which it will pivot from being a car company that works with technology to a technology company that works with cars. Through the partnership, Renault Group will build on its knowledge of battery cell manufacturing while leveraging Verkor’s excellence in manufacturing low-carbon batteries through digital innovation.

Advising the partnership were Santander Corporate & Investment Banking, Barber-Hauler and De Gaulle and Fleurance & Associés.

Production and environmental challenges

report from MarketsAndMarkets forecasts global EV battery market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 25.3%, from US$27.3 billion in 2021 to US$67.2 billion by 2025.

An IDTechEx report "Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles and Fleets 2021-2031" finds that the total number of electric vehicle charging outlets surpassed 1 million in 2020, with both China and Europe at or below the optimum 10 electric vehicles per charging outlet. The US is lagging at ~17 electric vehicles per outlet, but with a cool $174 billion earmarked by the Biden administration for electric vehicle and charging infrastructure market development, the tide is turning. 

Meanwhile the speed of the global electric roll-out is causing challenges.

The production of the battery electric vehicle entails a higher environmental impact, mainly due to energy intensive battery cell manufacturing. Despite the increased production burden, total life cycle impact is dramatically better, thanks to the much lower carbon impact from the use phase. 

Another challenge is improved leak-detection tests are needed for lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles currently on the road today, according to researchers at INFICON, a leading supplier of automotive leak-detection systems.

Dr. Daniel Wetzig, head of leak-detection research and development at INFICON, said: "Today's pressure-decay methods are either too slow or unreliable and allow significant leaks to go unnoticed."

Frost & Sullivan's recent analysis finds that the growing adoption of electric transit buses, driven by pro-green government policies, has enabled global sourcing and supply chain for alternate powertrain buses (click here).

"Growing battery capacities coupled with aggressive development in charging infrastructure technologies is expected to increase the adoption rate of electric powertrains in the coach segment though it faces stiff competition from diesel and natural gas buses," said Saideep Sudhakar, Research Manager, Frost & Sullivan. "Improving power density, efficiency and reducing cost are key areas of innovation in the market."

  • Zenobe has selected EDF as the company’s trading and optimisation partner for a new 100MW battery. The battery will be located at Capenhurst, near Chester, and will be the largest transmission-connected battery storage project in Europe. The announcement of this partnership follows several months of cooperation between the two teams working on the project. 
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