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France

Hollande hails 'revolutionary' new lithium battery plant

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-21

French President François Hollande hailed ‘a new industrial revolution’ in inaugurating Friday a new lithium battery plant built by the Bolloré group, which manufactures the Bluecar made popular by France’s electric-car sharing scheme.

A few hours after setting new goals for France’s energy policy, French President François Hollande inaugurated the Bolloré group’s new battery plant on Friday, praising the family-owned firm which spent at least 1.5 billion euros (2.3$) on battery-related development over about a decade.

“You’re preparing a new industrial revolution here,” Hollande told Vincent Bolloré, head of the group, and hundreds of employees at the inauguration of the new Ergué-Gabéric plant in the northwest Finistère region. “That revolution is energy storage.”

Earlier in the day, as he attended an environmental conference in Paris, Hollande vowed to halve energy consumption in France by 2050 and cut fossil fuels by 30% by 2030. The French president has also made electric cars “a priority.”

During his visit to Finistère, Hollande toured the brand new factory where the lithium batteries will be made for electric buses and for Autolib’, an electric-car-sharing scheme launched in Paris nearly two years ago with a partnership between Bolloré and local authorities.

Today, Autolib’ -- which Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoe once called “a gamble” -- boasts more than 100,000 members.

A partnership “made in France”

Bolloré and carmaker Renault announced on September 12 that they would collaborate to expand the field of electric vehicles by extending the Autolib’ service outside of the capital, and possibly constructing Bolloré’s existing Bluecar in Renault’s factory in Dieppe.

The Bluecar is currently being used only for Autolib’ in Paris, but will soon be shipped to six other European countries. In the US, Indianapolis is said to have ordered 500 Bluecars in 2014, according to The Economist. The mayor of Indianapolis also attended the new Ergué-Gabéric plant visit with Hollande.

France’s minister for industrial renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, who has been a strong campaigner for all things “Made in France,” commended the partnership between the French firms, explaining that their collaboration was natural. “It makes sense,” he recently told French radio station Europe 1.“ We have an electric carmaker, and a battery manufacturer, it is necessary they work hand in hand.”

Bolloré's promotional video (YouTube)

On Friday, Hollande hailed the “audacity” of the Bolloré group, who believed in the future of electric cars “while others thought it was a pipe dream.” He also praised “a great French family enterprise,” started in Brittany and who now employs 11,000 people in France, and 55,000 across the world.

The French president then teased Vincent Bolloré, famous for being close friends with former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, about his collaboration with Paris’s Socialist mayor.

“You didn’t know you were helping socialism, Vincent Bolloré, but in reality socialism needed capitalism to achieve its goals,” he said.

Date created : 2013-09-21

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