France Opens First EV Battery Factory as Study Suggests That Hydrogen Aircraft Could Be Cost-Competitive By 2035: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Brief: France opens first EV battery factory; Hydrogen aircraft operations could be cost competitive by 2035 – study; Renault CEO and ACEA President calls for stakeholder coordination to deal with climate change; UK Government injects £72m to boost rail services in Northern England.

France opens first EV battery factory. France is set to launch its first battery factory for electric cars, marking a significant step in European efforts to compete with China and the USA in the electric vehicle sector. The factory, known as a “gigafactory,” is in Billy-Berclau and is owned by Automotive Cells Company, a partnership between TotalEnergies, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis. French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reindustrialize France emphasises the development of the battery industry, with several more factories planned in the northern region of the country over the next three years. The goal is to transform the Hauts-de-France region into a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing, dubbed “Battery Valley,” comparable to Silicon Valley. In response to the European Union’s target to phase out the sale of new fossil fuel cars by 2035, Europe has seen a surge in battery factory projects. France aims to produce two million electric vehicles annually by 2030, with the ACC plant expected to supply 500,000 vehicles per year by then. Other battery factories are also being established in France by AESC-Envision, Verkor, and ProLogium, with the aim of meeting the growing demand for electric vehicles.

Hydrogen aircraft operations could be cost competitive by 2035 – study. According to a recent study by Steer for Transport & Environment, hydrogen jets may become a more cost-effective option compared to fossil fuel planes starting from 2035, if kerosene is taxed appropriately. By that year, running planes on hydrogen might be 8% pricier than using kerosene. However, if there is a tax on fossil jet fuel and a carbon price implemented, hydrogen planes could end up being 2% less expensive to operate compared to their kerosene-based counterparts. T&E suggests that such pricing and taxation strategies are crucial for the widespread adoption of environmentally friendly technologies, such as hydrogen planes. The environmental NGO also criticised airframer Airbus for the slow rollout of hydrogen-powered aircraft. Carlos López de la Osa, aviation technical manager at T&E noting that “Airbus promised the world it would build a hydrogen jet by 2035. Building these planes is economically feasible, but if we want Airbus to walk the talk, we’ll need to create a market for zero emission aircraft, by taxing fossil jet fuel and mandating zero emission planes in the future. If we have to rely only on Airbus’ goodwill, hydrogen jets will never be more than a pipe dream.”

Renault CEO and ACEA President calls for stakeholder coordination to deal with climate change.  Luca de Meo, ACEA President and CEO of Renault Group, delivered a speech at the International Transport Forum (ITF) Summit where he discussed the worldwide endeavour to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. In his speech, de Meo proclaimed that “climate change is a planetary problem that requires a global perspective” but noted that regional approaches were appropriate. He also asserted that the automotive sector alone could not overcome the challenges of climate change. “It is a team sport that we must play together, working on the entire value chain. What we need from public bodies is that they take responsibility for orchestrating the strategies of the different players: automotive, mining, energy, infrastructure industry”, de Meo said, adding that “We need a very high level of cooperation, and cooperation at high level, to secure trade, competitiveness, economies of scale and common standards. Faced with the huge investments urgently needed to curb climate change, the world can’t afford to give up the economic efficiency offered by a global and open market. And for that we need reciprocity, respect of multilateral rules, and a level playing field.” De Meo’s speech comes as the EU seeks to reduce road transport’s emissions, which currently represent 24% of all the EU’s co2 emissions, through a number of restrictive measures such as the interdiction of new combustion engine vehicles by 2035 and new emissions standards. 

UK Government injects £72m to boost rail services in Northern England. The UK government has announced a £72 million package to improve train services in Manchester and the north of England. The funding aims to enhance transportation services by introducing a new platform at Salford Crescent station and implementing track improvements throughout north Manchester. These efforts will seek to alleviate delays, congestion, and overcrowding at stations, ensuring passengers experience more comfortable and dependable journeys. Furthermore, Manchester Victoria Station will see improvements in the form of additional access points to platforms. This enhancement will simplify passenger movement within the station, particularly during peak hours. Speaking about the investments, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today’s funding, alongside major projects like HS2, the TransPennine route upgrade and Northern Powerhouse Rail, demonstrates our pledge to improving opportunities for passengers across the region and leaving a positive impact for generations to come.”

Image: © EU/Christophe Licoppe