France is pushing for hybrid and electric vehicles as the way to the future of mobility.
At the heart of a market set to account for 30 to 40 per cent of new vehicles by 2025, and 20 per cent from as early as 2020, pure electric cars (battery-run) and hybrid rechargeable cars, with extendable battery life or fuel-cell battery, are receiving strong input from industrial players and government authorities in France, keen to address environmental concerns, boost the sector’s competitiveness and secure its energy independence.
A charter signed with the French Ministry for Industry in the year 2011 lists the ten commitments which industry professionals must make when offering low-carbon vehicles and related products and services to consumers, featuring high performance benefits, quality, ease of use and safety. Highway companies, parking operators, traders and dealers have also signed up to the effort. Interestingly, France’s fleet of electric passenger and lightweight utility vehicles is the largest in Europe (15,000 units) and the third largest in the world, after the United States and Japan.
PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) launched the Peugeot 3008 hybrid in 2011, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid diesel car. In spring 2012, the Citroen DS5, operating on the same technology, arrived on the market, along with the top-range Peugeot 508 RXH. In 2012, Toyota produced a hybrid version of the Yaris III, in Valenciennes (Nord-Pas de Calais region). For city use, Venturi (Eclectic), Goupil G3, Lumeneo (Smera and Neoma), MEGA, Micro Vett (Fiat), Tracetel (Whoop), and Courb (C Zen) are developing engine-powered tricycles and quadricycles, while Gepebus (PVI), Tecnobus, Irisbus and Gruau are bringing out buses, and Renault-Trucks
a line of trucks.
Batteries are produced in France by SAFT (Lithium-Ion) and Batscap-Bollor? (Lithium Metal Polymer). Renault started producing electric engines in Cl?on (Haute-Normandie region) in 2013, and will start batteries (after Nissan NEC paves the way) in Flins (Paris region) in 2014. Pivotal to BMW’s partnership with PSA is a hybrid components plant in Mulhouse for 2014 (Alsace region). Parts manufacturers such as Valeo are involved in the electrification of the powertrain, power electronics and vehicle weight reduction.
The French government’s Automobile Bonus, in place since 2008, has channeled a total of ??.3 billion into the market, fostering the acquisition of 3.9 million new low-pollution vehicles. The 2012 scale maintains ambitious support through incentives ranging from ??,000 to ??,000 per low-carbon vehicle. An incentive scheme from the French Environment and Energy Management Agency ADEME also exists for quadricycles and certain heavy-duty vehicles. Significant funding (??00 million) has been allocated to emission reduction and low-carbon vehicles, within four innovation clusters dedicated to automobiles and transport solutions (Mov’eo, Id4Car, Vehicles for the Future and Lyon Urban Truck and Bus). More general support for R&D is also available through France’s Research Tax Credit and the innovation agency OSEO. Initiated in 2009, France’s Plan for the Development of Rechargeable Electric and Hybrid vehicles illustrates the commitment of the French government to promote low-carbon vehicles. The Multi-Year Land Transport Program (“Predit N?4”, backed with ??00 million of funding) allocates an average 50 per cent of its funding to electric and hybrid vehicles.
Two technological platforms are running today: Steeve Grenoble & Amiens (energy storage, piloted by the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission CEA and the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks INERIS) and Mov?o’DEGE Saclay (piloted by the French Institute of Petroleum IFP). French Environment and Energy Management Agency ADEME’s first two research demonstration funds on “low greenhouse gas road vehicles” have been approved (??08 million). They also support experimental efforts such as Kl?ber (rechargeable hybrid vehicle in Strasbourg), SAVE (Seine Aval VE), CROME (CROss-border Mobility for Evs) with Germany, VERT (in R?union). BMW meanwhile experimented with a French fleet of Mini E cars up to the end June 2011, and will launch an operational fleet with ActiveEs in 2012.
In order to guarantee fully-safe electric vehicle deployment, in particular in underground parking lots, tests have been carried out on electric vehicle battery safety, in conjunction with government authorities. The Recharge Infrastructures Working Group for electric vehicles (GT IRVE), placed under the supervision of the Ministry for Industry, is responsible for consultation and coordination with sector professionals (Schneider Electric, Legrand, Park?on, DBT, Saintronic, Sagem.com, EDF Sodretel, Hager, etc.) on all national government issues: provisions introduced under the Grenelle II Act (municipality consortia, building permits, office or apartment block parking lots), Green Paper recommendations on recharge infrastructures accessible to the public, a common definition of the “safe electric vehicle”, standardisation, support (French Government Investment Bank CDC or the French Environment and Energy Management Agency ADEME) for experiments and recharge infrastructure deployment (eco-cities and pilot metropolitan areas having signed a charter in 2010).
The French government’s “National Investment Program” has helped boost support for electrochemical storage, through the “low-carbon energies” segment of its activities. The “Vehicle of the Future” segment meanwhile focused on advanced electric powertrain and hybrid techniques as well as recharge stations, while also opening up a unit dedicated to funding recharge infrastructures on public highways. Already-published multilateral investment agreements (AMIs) have been granted a budget of over ??00 million. Furthermore, the French government has announced an accreditation program and ??4 million in funding for the VEDECOM Institute for Excellence in Low-Carbon Energies, specifically in the field of land transport and eco-mobility, which will set up a venue in Satory (Paris region) where transport players can work together to deploy new systems and new vehicles.
Lastly, the Orders Consortium steered by La Poste and coordinated by state procurement body UGAP announced in October 2011 the outcome of a call for tenders on the acquisition of 2,000 vehicles for four years. The UGAP has also signed partnerships with various representatives of the local authorities.
Said David Appia, Chairman and CEO of the Invest in France Agency (IFA), “France offers a world-class platform for foreign industrial players who wish to develop low-carbon vehicles, taking advantage of an environment highly conducive to innovation and boasting top-tier training for engineers. France’s innovation clusters and government incentives dedicated to the automotive sector enhance France’s investment attractiveness in these technologies building the future”.
The Invest in France Agency (IFA) is the national agency responsible for promoting and facilitating international investment in France. It also coordinates initiatives to promote France’s economic attractiveness. The IFA network operates worldwide. In France, the IFA works in partnership with regional development agencies to offer international investors outstanding business opportunities and customised services.
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