April 29, 2019 / 2:58 PM / 3 months ago

France, Germany to support battery cell consortium including PSA, Saft

FILE PHOTO: A PSA Group logo is seen behind a car displayed during French carmaker's news conference as they announce the company's 2018 results at their headquarters in Rueil-Malmaison, near Paris, France, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - France and Germany have asked the European Commission to approve state subsidies for a cross-border battery cell consortium including carmaker PSA with its German subsidiary Opel and French battery maker Saft, a German official said on Monday.

The two countries have earmarked 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to support company alliances to help reduce European carmakers’ dependence on Asian suppliers and protect jobs at risk from the shift away from combustion engines.

The economy ministries of both countries sent a letter of intent to the European Union’s executive body asking it to give a provisional go-ahead, a German economy ministry spokeswoman said, without giving a sum for the planned state funding.

“We’re now waiting for Brussels to give us the green light,” the spokeswoman said, confirming an earlier report by FAZ newspaper.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier will meet French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Paris on Thursday to discuss the matter, aiming to make progress with forging further battery alliances.

The FAZ report said that the PSA/Saft alliance was planning to convert an Opel factory in the western city of Kaiserslautern close to the French border into a battery cell production site.

Among the more than 30 companies that applied for state funding at the German Economy Ministry are carmakers Volkswagen and BMW, as well as German battery maker Varta and Swedish battery manufacturing startup Northvolt.

Saft, a 100-year old French company owned by energy company Total, produces a range of batteries for industrial applications.

It has joined forces with German industrial group Siemens, electronic components specialist Manz, Belgian chemicals group Solvay and Belgian material group Umicore to develop a new generation of batteries for electric vehicles.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; editing by Thomas Seythal and Kirsten Donovan

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