EU approves more state aid to boost car batteries industry

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

European Commissioner for Europe fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager speaks during a news conference on European project in battery value chain at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels,Tuesday, Jan. 26. 2021. The European Union has approved 2.9 billion (US3.53 billion) in subsidies from 12 member countries for a second pan-European project to develop the bloc's electric battery industry and move away from its reliance on Asian imports. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)

BRUSSELS – The European Union has approved 2.9 billion euros in subsidies from 12 member countries for a second pan-European project to develop the electric battery industry and move away from its reliance on Asian imports.

The EU's executive commission had already cleared a 3.2 billion-euro plan subsidized by seven countries in Dec. 2019 to support research and innovation in a key sector where Europe is lagging behind Asian competitors.

The EU, which expects that demand for batteries will grow quickly in the coming years, said Tuesday that the latest public funding is expected to unlock an extra 9 billion euros in private investment.

The commission said the project — involving Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden — will cover the whole production chain, from mineral extraction to design, battery manufacturing and recycling.

Called the “European Battery Innovation," the project will allow non-European businesses such as Tesla to benefit from EU investment. Tesla, which is headquartered in California, is building its first European factory in the Berlin area. The company expects to make 150,000 electric cars a year at the new plant starting in mid-2021, with plans to increase that number to half a million annually.

“If businesses come here with the right projects (...), then it can happen and will benefit a much, much wider circle of European companies than otherwise," said Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner in charge of competition policy.

Tesla plans also to develop new battery cells and packs. The aid approved for its project is not related to vehicle production, but exclusively to the company’s plans in the area of batteries and recycling.

China dominates the world’s production of new generation batteries as it hosts the majority of the world’s lithium refining.