French Minister Calls for Europe-Exclusive EV Battery

A project to develop a new battery would allow Europe to compete with China and the U.S. on electrical vehicles, the official says.

William Diem, Correspondent

June 26, 2018

2 Min Read
Bolloré has developed own batteries, but they have limitations.Getty Images

PARIS – Europe needs to develop its own version of batteries for electric vehicles, says the French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire.

Such batteries are strategic for Europe, Le Maire tells journalists from the Anglo-American Press Assn.

Today, he says, only China and the U.S. are in position to develop new batteries, but if Europe concludes a European-wide budget, it can compete.

“China already leads with lithium-liquid batteries,” Le Maire says. “But for lithium-solid batteries, Europe has the capacity.”

Total, the French oil company, is researching solid-state lithium batteries, and it may work with Germany’s Siemens on the project, he says.

A European research budget is still far from reality.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed June 19 on the idea of creating an operating budget in the countries using the euro as early as 2021, and Le Maire says he pulled his only all-nighter in the past 15 years working on the accord. However, 17 other European countries need to be persuaded.

A version of solid-state automotive batteries already is in production in France by the Bolloré company. Lithium-metal-polymer batteries that use no cobalt or rare earths are employed in 5,000 electric vehicles Bolloré has been renting in car-sharing operations in Paris, Indianapolis, Shanghai and elsewhere. However, the Auto’Lib car-sharing program in Paris, which accounts for 4,000 of the cars, will be out of business by the end of July, as Paris voted June 21 not to extend its contract with Bolloré.

A Bolloré spokesman says the company has invested in its batteries since 2000 and will continue to do so. A subsidiary called Blue Solutions runs the battery business, and the French business publication Capital says Blue Solutions lost €19 million ($22 million) last year on €82 million ($95 million) in sales.

Michael Salomon, founder of the Clean Horizon energy consultancy, told Capital Bolloré’s batteries are safer and less likely to cause fires than other lithium batteries, but they need to be kept at 140º F (60° C), which meant cars had to be plugged in whenever they were not being driven.

Besides its cars, Bolloré has the batteries in 80 electric buses (48 in Paris) and sells them for storing electricity produced by windmills or solar panels.

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