France edged out rivals such as Germany and the Netherlands for ProLogium’s first foreign car battery facility, thanks to President Emmanuel Macron’s campaigning, deal sweeteners, and strong competitive rates, according to Taiwanese company executives.
ProLogium announced this week that it has chosen the northern French port city of Dunkirk for its second gigafactory, and the first outside Taiwan, after limiting a list of 13 countries down to three.
The factory will be the fourth battery plant in northern France, adding to an expanding specialised cluster crucial to Europe’s electric car industry, with production set to begin in 2026.
Europe now relies heavily on Asian-made batteries for electric vehicles, and national authorities are proposing a variety of incentives to jumpstart the industry.
This has become more pressing since the United States passed the $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act last year, which includes large tax breaks to reduce carbon emissions while increasing domestic output and manufacturing.
Macron, who met with ProLogium CEO Vincent Yang directly at the start of the vetting process, was set to unveil the 5.2 billion euro ($5.7 billion) investment in Dunkirk on Friday.
ProLogium executive vice-president Gilles Normand stated that when Macron, a former investment banker, pitched Yang more than a year ago, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire followed up and assisted the company in making its case to the European Commission for EU financial incentives.
“There was then the realisation that there might be some interesting possibilities, which was maybe a little bit different from the clichés about France,” Normand told a small group of journalists.
The timing of the investment is fortunate for Macron, who is attempting to put an end to months of strikes and protests over his plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 and demonstrate to sceptics that his pro-business campaign is paying off.
ProLogium anticipates the project to directly produce 3,000 jobs and indirectly create four times that number, a benefit in an area where both the far right and far left poll well following years of industrial decline.
The creation of an industrial cluster surrounding the three existing battery plants was a draw in and of itself, Normand added, providing a critical mass of material suppliers and qualified personnel.
France also benefited from competitively priced zero-carbon electricity generated by one of the world’s largest fleets of nuclear facilities, but also increasingly by offshore wind farms and solar.
Normand went on to say that the government sweetened the deal with an incentive package, but he couldn’t go into detail since further subsidies were being reviewed by the European Commission.
Macron’s administration is eager to take advantage of the recent loosening of EU state aid laws in order to provide new tax cuts and other incentives to stimulate investment in green technologies.
On Thursday, he announced that the government will grant a new tax credit of up to 40% of a company’s capital expenditure in wind, solar, heat-pump, and battery projects.
Meanwhile, the government intends to increase customer demand for European-made electric vehicles by tying a 5,000 euro cash incentive to vehicles that meet stringent low-carbon production rules, virtually ruling out non-European automobiles.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)
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