Bolloré Group, the French industrial conglomerate, plans to invest $120 million in its Boucherville plant on Montreal’s South Shore. The facility produces batteries for electric cars and minibuses.
The announcement is scheduled to be made this afternoon (October 29) in conjunction with the official opening of the plant, which is operated by Bolloré subsidiary Bathium Canada (formerly Avestor); it was previously owned by Hydro-Québec and Anadarko.
This major investment, which will apparently be carried out without any government contribution, will boost the plant’s current annual production tenfold to 5,000 batteries by 2010 and to 15,000 by 2012.
In an interview with LesAffaires.com, CEO Vincent Bolloré, one of France’s wealthiest industrialists, confirmed that the plant’s current 70-strong workforce will be increased by 240 employees, 100 of whom will be hired over the next 16 months. The plant is eventually expected to employ around 310 people.
The lithium-metal-polymer (LMP) batteries produced at the plant were developed by researchers at Hydro-Québec and the University of Texas. Bolloré Group acquired the Boucherville plant and the rights to the LMP technology in 2007 in the wake of Avestor’s bankruptcy filing. Shortly thereafter, bankruptcy trustee RSM Richter sold the company to Bolloré for an estimated $15 million.
Key component of the BlueCar
In contrast with Hydro-Québec, which withdrew from the electric vehicle market to focus on telecommunications, Bolloré developed Avestor’s technology and adapted it to new-generation electric vehicles.
The LMP batteries manufactured in Boucherville are expected to become the key component of the BlueCar electric vehicle, which the Bolloré Group has been working on for nearly 15 years. According to Mr. Bolloré, a total of one billion euros ($1.6 billion) has been invested in the project thus far.
To bring the project to completion, Bolloré has teamed up with Italian auto stylist Pininfarina, which has designed various Ferrari models. BlueCar’s order book currently stands at 6,400 vehicles. If everything goes according to plan, the initial deliveries will be made in June 2010.
The LMP battery weighs 300 kg, stores five times more energy than a traditional battery and recharges in slightly over three hours. It has a range of 250 km and a useful life of approximately 200,000 km.
Bolloré is the only company in the world to stake its future on LMP technology, which Mr. Bolloré describes as the most promising available.
To date, however, only BMW has officially expressed an interest in the technology. The other auto manufacturers, which remain unconvinced about LMP, are pinning their hopes on lithium-ion technology.
According to the CEO, Bolloré Group’s investment in Québec will go ahead regardless. In partnership with another plant inaugurated in Brittany in September 2009, Bathium Canada expects to produce 25,000 LMP batteries a year by 2012.
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Source: Martin Jolicoeur, lesaffaires.com (Oct. 27, 2009)