By announcing Friday the choice of Dunkirk for a large battery factory, the Taiwanese ProLogium intends to make the France a pioneer land, to mass produce a new generation of battery, called "solid", more resistant and more powerful than the previous ones, assures the group.
"The reasons for setting up in France are numerous," said in an interview with several news agencies the vice-president in charge of international development of the group, Gilles Normand, while French President Emmanuel Macron is expected Friday in this city in the north of the France to highlight the reindustrialization of the region.
In total, ProLogium intends to invest €5.2 billion in Dunkirk by 2030 to reach an annual production capacity of 48 GWh, enough for hundreds of thousands of cars. The group hopes to start production at the end of 2026 and ramp up over several years, with 3,000 jobs in the plant and 12,000 indirect jobs for the territory.
Three more gigafactories projects
The Taiwanese company wanted to "have access to carbon-free electricity" but in Dunkirk, "we not only have access to nuclear electricity but there are also offshore wind turbines," lists Gilles Normand.
"A real ecosystem for batteries is developing in northern France," he says, while three other "gigafactories" projects have already been announced: in Douvrin, which is scheduled to open at the end of May; in Douai; and already in Dunkirk, with the French start-up Verkor.
"This will allow us to have a critical mass to see material suppliers set up," while current so-called "lithium-ion" batteries are very greedy in critical metals such as lithium, graphite or cobalt, with a supply chain now largely controlled by China.
A more powerful battery
It also allows "proximity to our customers because many electric vehicle factories are located in Northern Europe" and "Dunkirk is very well connected by rail, road and a deep-water port that facilitates the import and export of our products," continues Gilles Normand.
ProLogium, founded in 2006, presents itself as a pioneer of the solid state battery that can reach "a power between 360 and 390 watts per kg against between 160 and 180 watts per kg for lithium-ion batteries," says its founder and CEO Vincent Yang.
The solid state battery is distinguished from its competitors by its solid electrolyte - to carry the electric charge - and not liquid as in traditional batteries. The separator - a key element for the operation of a battery - is ceramic and not polymer, making the battery much more resistant to shocks, less prone to short circuits and therefore to catch fire.
The anode - one of the two electrodes - is entirely composed of silicon oxide, easier to find in Europe than the graphite usually used, which comes "90% from China", according to Gilles Normand. "Currently, at least six equipment manufacturers in Europe and the United States are in the testing phase," adds Vincent Yang, while this technology is still waiting to be approved for electric mobility.
The solid state battery allows for serious improvements, according to the two leaders. "It charges to 80% in 12 minutes whereas if you take for example a Tesla Model 3, it takes 20 minutes" in fast charging, explains Gilles Normand.
The new technology makes it possible to "double the autonomy" of batteries while reducing their weight "by at least 11%, or at least 50 kg", he continued. But "50 kg on a car is huge, it reduces the braking system, etc."
The plant will have to reach a production level of 30 GWh before being competitive, he said. ProLogium initially planned to invest on its own funds before filling its order book.
Certifications of the battery "will take at least two years" before it is adopted by manufacturers, says Mr. Normand. Since its inception, ProLogium has raised €700 million and counts Mercedes-Benz among its shareholders. The company relies on European and national financial aid for green industry and plans an IPO to finance its investments.
- Electric car