The EIB has recently provided the French Bolloré Group with a EUR 130m loan to help it develop a new generation of lithium-metal-polymer (LMP) batteries that will increase the range of electric vehicles to more than 250 km.
The loan comes at a time when Bolloré has been awarded a contract to supply the city of Paris with its future fleet of self-service electric vehicles.
“We are banking on advanced technologies to spearhead sustainable economic development, create jobs and foster high-level skills, all with a direct impact on people’s daily lives”, said EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive at the signing ceremony for the loan in January. Bolloré Group is the only company working on LMP batteries, which are able to store up to five times as much energy as traditional batteries and have a life of more than 200 000 km. Another advantage of these batteries is that they will also be able to store solar or wind energy.
At a time when many firms are moving their production offshore to India or China, the EIB is supporting a manufacturer committed to investing in Europe. In order to meet demand, Bolloré in January laid the foundation stone of a new LMP battery manufacturing plant in Brittany. This 2-ha complex is expected to provide jobs for 300 people by June 2012 and to enable the group to increase its production capacity from the current 2 500 to 20 000 units a year.
These batteries will be fitted to cars but also to the electric version of the microbus that Bolloré is working on with the French coachbuilder Gruau. The first 23-seater electric bus is expected to be delivered to Luxembourg by April. As well as producing the LMP batteries for electric cars, Bolloré Group intends to develop them for use in homes, to meet peak power consumption requirements, or even to supply critical facilities such as hospitals in the event of power cuts.
Over the past few years the EIB has provided finance for numerous companies in Europe as part of its support for research, development and innovation (RDI) in the automotive industry. For instance, in April 2010 it approved a EUR 220m loan in the United Kingdom to help Nissan set up its first plant in Europe to produce lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. In Germany it provided BMW with EUR 780m to develop an electrically powered urban vehicle, one version of which uses electricity as the sole source of energy. And, finally, in France it supported Renault in its RDI programmes (EUR 400m) and made a EUR 200m loan to PSA Peugeot Citroën for the development of new rechargeable hybrid engine technology.