President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to northern France, has lauded plans to build a Chinese-owned battery factory that will supply automaker Renault as Europe steps up its shift towards electric vehicles.
Chinese group Envision's two-billion-euro project is being saluted as a result of Macron's efforts to encourage foreign firms to "Choose France" for investment, in particular in cutting-edge technologies.
"I am happy to be here with you. It's a step, but we all know how much was behind it," Macron said outside the factory, alongside government ministers and the company's chiefs at the factory in Lambres-lez-Douai.
Around 1,000 jobs will be created over the next three years by a project that, it is hoped, will revive three Renault factories that have struggled for years.
The company hopes to build 500,000 vehicles each year at the sites by 2025.
"We see this as a win-win relationship between Renault, Envision and the French government," said Lei Zhang, the CEO of Envision, a company headquartered in Shanghai with outlets in six countries, including the US, the UK and Japan.
"This wouldn't have been possible two years ago. It's the right time now, thanks to the French recovery plan," he said.
In parallel with an increased capacity to produce batteries for electric cars, France also intends to address the shortage of charging points for vehicles.
According to a report by Transport & Environment, a non-government organisation, Paris said it wants to provide 100,000 public charging points by the end of 2021. Private citizens will be encouraged to install plugs at home, while large apartment buildings may be equipped with central charging facilities.
Buyers could also be eligible to receive up to €11,000 in subsidies by swapping a combustion-motor driven car for an electric one. Benefitting from these subsidies and new European carbon dioxide standards, electric vehicle sales jumped from 2 percent to 9 percent of the total sales figure, making 2020 a pivotal year for the electric car in France, according to the report.