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France’s Low-Carbon Vehicles

Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe

With 15,000 units, France’s fleet of electric passenger and lightweight-utility vehicles is the largest in Europe. With pure electric cars set to account for 20% of new vehicles from 2020, France is one of the front-runners in the global low-carbon vehicle sector.

David Appia, Chairman and CEO of the Invest in France Agency (IFA), states, “France offers a world-class platform for foreign industrial players who wish to develop low-carbon vehicles while 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 of the future.”

Pure electric cars (i.e. those that are battery-run) and hybrid rechargeable cars (which have extendable battery life or fuel cells) are at the heart of a market set to account for 30% (and potentially up to 40%) of new vehicles by 2025, and 20% from as early as 2020. These vehicles are receiving strong backing from France’s industrial players and government decision makers, who are 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 September 2011 lists the 10 commitments that must be made when industry professionals (including highway companies, car-park operators, traders and dealers) offer low-carbon vehicles, products or services to consumers. The charter details requirements regarding performance, quality, ease of use and safety.

With 15,000 units, France’s fleet of electric passenger and lightweight-utility vehicles is the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world, after the USA and Japan.

In 2011, Peugeot SA launched the Peugeot 3008: the world’s first mass-produced hybrid diesel car. The Citroen DS5, operating on the same technology, is due to arrive on the market during the spring of 2012, along with the Peugeot 508 RXH. In 2012, Toyota will produce a hybrid version of the Yaris III, in Northern France.

For city use, Courb, Goupil G3, Lumeneo, MEGA, Micro Vett, Tracetel and Venturi are developing engine-powered tricycles and quadricycles. Gepebus (PVI), Gruau, Irisbus and Tecnobus are bringing out buses, while Renault-Trucks produces a line of lorries.

Lithium-Ion batteries are produced in France by SAFT and Lithium Metal Polymer batteries by Batscap-Bolloré. Renault will start manufacturing electric engines in Cléon (northern France) in 2013, and batteries in Flins (in the Paris region) in 2014. Pivotal to BMW’s partnership with PSA is a hybrid-components plant in Mulhouse (eastern France), due to open in 2014. Parts manufacturers such as Valeo are involved in the electrification of the traction chain, power electronics and vehicle-weight reduction.

The French government’s Automobile Bonus, in place since 2008, has channelled a total of €2.3 billion into the market, enabling the acquisition of 3.9 million new low-pollution vehicles in France. In 2012, there will also be generous support through incentives ranging from €2,000 to €5,000 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.

The French government has allocated €100 million for the development of low-carbon vehicles and emission reduction to four innovation clusters: Id4Car, Lyon Urban Truck & Bus, Mov’eo, and Vehicles for the Future. More broadly, R&D is supported through France’s Research Tax Credit and through the active role played by innovation agency OSEO.

Initiated in 2009, France’s Plan for the Development of Rechargeable Electric and Hybrid Vehicles illustrates the French government’s commitment to promote low-carbon vehicles.

Part of this plan, funded to the tune of €400million and known as the Multi-Year Land-Transport Programme, allocates an average of 50% of its funding to electric and hybrid vehicles. Two technological platforms are running today. The first is Steeve Grenoble & Amiens, which deals with energy storage; the project is run by the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), along with the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS). The second platform is Movéo’DEGE Saclay — a project run by the French Institute of Petroleum (IFP).

ADEME’s research funding for low greenhouse-gas road vehicles, amounting to €108 million, has been approved. The funding will also support experimental electronic-vehicle projects such as that of CROME, Kléber, SAVE, and VERT. BMW, meanwhile, experimented with a French fleet of Mini E-cars until June 2011, and will launch an operational fleet, with the ActiveE model, in 2012.

Throughout, in order to guarantee safe electric-vehicle deployment — particularly in underground parking lots — tests have been carried out on electric-vehicle-battery safety, in conjunction with government authorities.

The Recharging Infrastructures Working Group for Electric Vehicles (GT IRVE), placed under the supervision of France’s Ministry for Industry, is responsible for consultation and co-ordination with sector professionals such as DBT, EDF Sodretel, Hager, Legrand, Parkéon, Sagem.com, Saintronic and Schneider Electric.

Consultation occurs on all national government issues, covering, for instance, sustainable development and recharging infrastructures accessible to the public. Support from CDC, the French government’s investment bank, and from ADEME has been available for R&D and for deploying the recharging infrastructure. In this respect, various eco-cities signed a charter in 2010.

The French government’s National Investment Programme has boosted support for electrochemical storage, through the Low-carbon Energies segment of the programme. Meanwhile, the Vehicle of the Future segment has focused on advanced electric powertrain and hybrid technologies, as well as recharging stations.

Already-published Multilateral Investment Agreements (AMIs) have been granted a budget of over €500 million. The French government has also announced an accreditation programme, with €54 million allocated to the VEDECOM Institute for Excellence in Low-Carbon Energies, specifically in the field of land transport and eco-mobility. This programme will include the set-up of a dedicated international cluster in the Paris region.

Finally, in October 2011, the Grouped Orders Programme, driven by French postal service La Poste, and co-ordinated by public-sector procurement body UGAP, announced the outcome of a call for tenders regarding the acquisition of 2,000 vehicles for a four-year period. UGAP has also signed partnership agreements with various local authorities in France, and plans to launch a new call for tenders in 2012.

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