The Good Boost: Verkor, French drum leader

The Verkor site in Grenoble. RD

the heart of a car electricity is its most expensive equipment and its main added value, on which considerable technological progress can be made in the future… And Europe, which has just passed legislation to impose radically zero emissions by 2035, at the beginning of an industry dedicated to the manufacture of batteries!

Renault presents its new modern model.  The compact Megane E-Tech bets on design and driving pleasure to make a difference.

Renault presents its new modern model. The compact Megane E-Tech bets on design and driving pleasure to make a difference. RD

We’re not exaggerating: Swedish pioneer Northvolt produced its first cells nine months ago. Otherwise nothing, or import through major Chinese or Korean manufacturers. In this virgin land, a Frenchman wants to make a name for himself: Verkor, a name built from “green”, of course, and reminiscent of Vercors, the homeland of this start-up that has already built its innovation center in Grenoble, a pilot site which foreshadows the opening of a gigafactory in Dunkirk in 2025.

We gathered the population to present the jobs and training we are going to offer: 1200 people will be hired

“This project gives us the opportunity to have a lasting impact on our economy and our environment,” boasts Benoît Lemaignan, chairman of the executive board and one of the six founders, all strong heads with an exemplary career spent at Airbus, Tesla, Audi or Renault, with complementary skills.

With 105 kWh, the battery of the xDrive50 version is the largest ever installed in a model of the Propeller brand.

With 105 kWh, the battery of the xDrive50 version is the largest ever installed in a model of the Propeller brand. RD

They met in July 2020 to launch the adventure that, today in Grenoble, brings together 150 people, so many experts from 22 nationalities, namely from Asia. Because the know-how comes from there, it is essential to pass it on to local teams in professions that hardly exist in Europe.

Of the 1,780 fast chargers (over 50 kW) that France is equipped with, 640 are Tesla Superchargers.

Of the 1,780 fast chargers (over 50 kW) that France is equipped with, 640 are Tesla Superchargers. RD

In Dunkirk, after public consultation concluded at the end of July, construction of the plant is expected to start in the first quarter of 2023. “We traveled to meet the population, it was also important to present the jobs and training we are going to offer: 1,200 people in total will be hired, with the first hirings in 2024 for an opening in 2025”, says Claire Strommoni, director of external relations.

Electric icons 3/5: Volkswagen Golf VW e-Golf.

Electric icons 3/5: Volkswagen Golf VW e-Golf. RD

Europe is covered of gigafactories

The gigantic needs of the coming years are accelerating the expansion of gigantic factories mainly dedicated to the production of batteries. For now, only the site of the Swedish precursor Northvolt has gone into production, but the approximately thirty projects identified testify to the desire to make up for the European delay in this area. Unsurprisingly, it is in Germany that the most significant capabilities will be deployed by 2030. The leading automotive country in Europe concentrates the manufacturers most committed to the electrical transformation, such as Mercedes, BMW or the premium brands of the Volkswagen group, which are all future customers of these gigafactories, when they are not the origin of the projects themselves.

Superchargers: Tesla against the rest of the world.

Superchargers: Tesla against the rest of the world. RD

Finding solutions for supply

With the aim of supplying 300,000 batteries in the first year and up to 1 million by 2030, there is no more time to waste: European capacities are still close to nil, while the electric car market experiences an unprecedented acceleration three years ago. Verkor is adjusting upstream and downstream of a production it wants to be minimal for its carbon footprint. Battery recycling is therefore a strong focus of their research, which is based on a very long lifespan and the reuse of lithium or cobalt.

Renault, which held 20% of the capital, will be the first customer served

From 2030, Renault wants a 100% carbon-free range.

From 2030, Renault wants a 100% carbon-free range. RD

Rare metal resources are another issue, with so much demand today that prices are rising very quickly. Consequence: The cost of batteries stopped falling in 2021, according to Bloomberg Energy. Unsurprisingly, the Tesla-style gigafactory model is spurring the European battery industry. “Tesla is getting ahead of the battery-car game because he’s been working hard on it longer than anyone else. Our ambition is to be as good as they are at producing cells.” assures Philippe Chain, another founder of Verkor, passed by the American company and ex-Renault as well.

The BMW iX xDrive 40.

The BMW iX xDrive 40. RD

He contributed to the merger with the French manufacturer, which held 20% of the capital and will be the first customer served. Among the supporters or partners of the tricolor nugget, players such as InnoEnergy, the financial arm of -Europe to launch energy champions, Schneider Electric or Plastic Omnium are expected. But also more surprising names, such as the fund of the Wallenberg family, the richest in Sweden, who believe in Verkor even though their country has the European pioneer of this emerging sector, Northvolt, which inspires the French of Vercors. There is no wrong model when it comes down to this.

Peugeot e-208.

Peugeot e-208. RD

competitors in France too

Two major projects will soon be completed, in addition to the Verkor project, both in the Hauts-de-France region, which is seen as a future “Battery Valley”. The first is the result of the joint venture created by Stellantis with Total Energies (through its subsidiary Saft) and Mercedes: Automotive Cells Company (ACC), which is expected to start producing batteries at the end of 2023 in Douvrin (Pas-de-Calais). ) . ), will have the capacity to equip around 500,000 electric cars per year. Sino-Japanese Envision-AESC is building a plant scheduled to come on stream at the end of 2024 near Renault’s assembly site in Douai (North). The Taiwanese company ProLogium, a specialist in the so-called “solid” batteries of the future, with reduced recharge times, is also considering installing itself in France. Decision in spring 2023.

The Renault Megane E-Tech.

The Renault Megane E-Tech. RD

3 questions for Philippe Chain – Co-founder of Verkor.

The Verkor start-up born in 2020 is growing fast: a pilot site has opened in Grenoble and the Dunkirk gig-factory will start operating - The Good Life

What motivated the creation of Verkor?

All founders met on a mission: to participate in the decarbonization of mobility. We gathered our skills and experiences in 2020
on a note: there is no battery industry in Europe, we have to start on a large scale. Verkor binding is cell manufacturing. With a much smaller carbon footprint, in particular using the lowest carbon primary energy possible. For example, at the Dunkirk site, we will recover heat from neighboring industries in the form of steam for use in our drying ovens. This can represent almost half of our gigafactory’s energy needs.

Can Europe catch up with China in batteries?

Yes, until 2030. The sum of all current projects in Europe slightly exceeds demand estimates, even if some projects do not see the light of day or do not reach advertised capacities. Above all, we can manufacture at competitive costs, as the cost of labor has a low impact on the manufacture of a battery, a highly automated process; represent only 5 to 8%.

Verkor opened a first website in Grenoble. What are you doing there?

Our first customer expects their batteries in large series in mid-2025. The Dunkirk plant will start operating in late 2024, but we will be producing cells at our pilot site in Grenoble from 2023. First we do development there: we build and test prototypes . In the pilot line, we are developing the industrial efficiency we are looking for. The resulting cells will serve as a pre-series and also to demonstrate our know-how to potential customers. Grenoble
will be our training center: the talent issue is an important issue in the battery sector to ensure the development of skills. Perhaps more than funding a new industry that brings technology, sovereignty, wealth and jobs.


More information about the Verkor start-up

> Verkor. with


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