Industrial start-up Verkor officially laid the foundation for its cutting-edge Gigafactory in Dunkirk (France). The Prime Minister of France, Elisabeth Borne, attended the inaugural ceremony. The facility aims to produce high-performance electric batteries, for which it received a substantial investment of 659 million euros approved by the European Commission.
Verkor’s Gigafactory, slated for operation by 2025, will initially boast a production capacity of 16 GWh/year. Situated in the Port of Dunkirk, it is projected to generate approximately 1 200 direct jobs and an additional 3,000 indirect jobs, contributing significantly to the local economy. Plans include expanding production capacity from the initial 16 GWh to 50 GWh by 2030.
‘Not chosen by chance’
The initial output is primarily heading to Renault, which struck a strategic deal securing itself 12 GWh of cell production. Together with EIT InnoEnergy, Groupe IDEC, Schneider Electric, and Capgemini, the Renault Group is a shareholder in Verkor.
One of the first cars to use a pack with Verkor-made cells is the all-electric Alpine C-Crossover GT, which will be assembled in the nearby factory of Dieppe. Renault’s share will rise to 20 GWh annually by the decade’s end.
“Dunkirk was not chosen by chance,” Benoit Lemaignan, CEO of Verkor, said. “We can feel the creative energy of all the players involved in this project, inspiring us and pushing us forward,” Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Region, added. “Here, we manufacture batteries, but not only batteries. Here, we manufacture the future; we manufacture confidence; we manufacture optimism.”
Windfall for the region
The construction of this Gigafactory has been made possible through substantial financial backing, including Verkor’s secured funding of 2 billion euros, direct and indirect banking support from the European Investment Bank (600 million euros), and national subsidies approved by the European Commission. The grants from the French government, as well as official regional and local bodies, rise to €650 million.
The North of France is becoming an ever more critical development region for battery production and handling. With Japanese Envision (Douai), Taiwanese ProLogium (Dunkirk), and ACC (Stellantis, Mercedes, and TotalEnergies) in Billy-Berclau, three additional cell factories are under construction. In the French ‘Battery Valley,’ Suez will construct a recycling plant for battery materials, while the Chinese company XTC is producing cathode materials in Dunkirk.
The investment and rise of a battery hub is a windfall for the region, which saw employment collapse after the mining industry succumbed. In the Hauts de France region, unemployment is 1,7% higher than the national average.