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Taiwanese car battery maker bets on Northern France with €5.2bn plant

The head of Taiwanese car battery maker ProLogium has praised Europe’s electric vehicle push as a reason for choosing France for a €5.2bn plant, in a boost to Brussels’ efforts to counter the appeal of massive US green subsidies.

Chief executive Vincent Yang said a Brussels-led commitment to ban the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035 had created a stable backdrop for international battery makers, reducing the risk of policy shifts by individual states.

“Europe is a good place to start business as there is a growing market demand for electric vehicles,” Yang told the Financial Times. “The regulation is neutral in the sense it is supranational and will not be affected by national elections.”

ProLogium, which counts Mercedes-Benz and Vietnam’s VinFast among its shareholders, picked the northern French port of Dunkirk after scouting out dozens of European locations and shortlisting the Netherlands and Germany as possibilities.

Availability of low-carbon nuclear energy in France, as well as state subsidies that kick in up front rather than when production starts like the US tax credits, were other advantages, Yang said.

“In Europe we can have support during the investment phase,” Yang added, declining to disclose the level of subsidies the group was promised.

The investment comes as French president Emmanuel Macron has sought to increase industrial jobs in the former coal mining northern France region. France still lags European neighbours such as Germany with only 10 per cent of its output derived from manufacturing.

Earlier this week Macron, who has faced mass protests over his pension reform, unveiled measures to shorten the time it takes to set up a factory and expand the use of tax credits.

France and other countries in Europe have been feeling the pressure from the US Inflation Reduction Act, Joe Biden’s $369bn green investments package. As a result, Tesla scaled back its plans for a battery factory in Germany in favour of the US.

ProLogium had had “many discussions” around the IRA and was not ruling out a US investment at a later stage, said Gilles Normand, the head of international development.

The company’s Dunkirk plant is the fourth battery plant in development in northern France. China’s Envision Group, French start-up Verkor and ACC, a venture backed by carmakers Stellantis, Mercedes-Benz and oil and gas group TotalEnergies, are also planning battery plants in the region.

ProLogium is focused on solid-state batteries, which developers say are safer and more durable than liquid-based lithium-ion batteries.

The company is aiming to start production by the end of 2026 and reach a capacity of 48 Gigawatts per hour by 2030. It has a smaller-scale pre-production line in Taiwan starting operations later this year.

“Our project goes beyond just a Gigafactory. We would like to localise procurement of key materials in Europe, and have a research and development centre,” Yang said.

Other battery start-ups in Europe have said they have been courted by US government representatives and US states with big incentives, and some, such as Sweden’s Northvolt — Europe’s biggest challenger to Asian battery producers — have called on the region to respond with more subsidies.

Northvolt, which is building a second plant in Sweden, is yet to decide on whether to build a third in Germany or the US.

ProLogium has yet to disclose how it will fully finance its plans. It has raised $700mn so far from investors and is launching fresh fundraising discussions. The group aims to eventually go for a stock market listing.

“In the future we will go for an initial public offering,” Yang said.

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