Liberté, égalité, batterie

Jon Lawson

France is experiencing a new industrial revolution ... in the form of batteries. Michele Windsor looks at the key features of this industry

“A new industrial revolution”. If I told you that’s how French President François Hollande recently described a form of technology, what would you think he was talking about — Robots, planes or perhaps driverless cars?

In fact, Monsieur Hollande was referring to a new lithium battery plant. Batteries are big news in France and they’re constantly evolving.

A French government report from September 2013 details batteries as one of 34 key priorities for French industry. The report discusses the Government's key aspirations — “we want to build a France of long-life batteries” — as well as the key French players innovating the market. These include a number of battery producers, research and development organisations of international standing and many large companies who use batteries such as Bolloré, EDF and Renault.

The global battery market is rapidly expanding and predictions show an increase from $11.8 billion in 2010, to $53.7 billion in 2020. France itself is expected to become the third most valuable market worldwide by 2020. So how does it plan to achieve this?

A key priority is research and development (R&D). Like Accutronics, many French companies have discovered the value of R&D, in constantly evolving existing products and producing the best for their customers.

An example of this is the recent development of sodium-ion batteries by a French team of researchers. These were the first sodium-ion batteries in the world. They are small and lightweight, yet have a long life cycle. Although they are unlikely to appear on the market for several years, the technology is proof of French innovation in the field.

Despite these developments, it’s clear that lithium-ion batteries haven’t been forgotten by France just yet. In fact, Florence Fusalba from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) explains that there is interest in lithium-ion batteries because of their universal use.

At Accutronics, we specialise in developing and manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for medical, defence and mission-critical industrial applications. It's therefore interesting to see that the focus in France is on the use of these batteries for automotive applications. For example, Iveco Bus is developing ultra-high power lithium-ion batteries to facilitate regenerative braking for use in its hybrid buses.

One of our key services at Accutronics is the bespoke design and production of batteries according to our customers' specific needs. Our neighbours across the Channel are doing the same.

Despite metropolitan France’s reliance on nuclear power, French outlying territories in the Caribbean and off the coast of Africa are currently striving towards renewable energy reliance. For example, the island of Réunion aims to acquire 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. This will require the ability to store large amounts of energy. France is currently developing hydrogen battery storage systems for the remote-site market; the perfect example of how batteries can be designed towards specific needs.

With strong investment in R&D and successful practical applications, the French battery market is showing great potential at the moment.

At Accutronics we have similar priorities and our years of experience in the industry, combined with our in-house testing facilities, means we can develop a battery to meet your needs, no matter what the specification. I’m sure if Monsieur Hollande was to come and visit our factory, he’d be considering us part of his new industrial revolution as well.

Michele Windsor is direct sales and marketing manager of professional battery manufacturer Accutronics