Exclusive: Total's Saft plans over 200 million euros investment in next generation battery

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PARIS (Reuters) - French battery maker Saft, a unit of oil and gas major Total said on Friday it plans to invest over 200 million euros ($233 million) in a next generation European battery alliance project.

Saft formed the alliance with European partners Siemens, Solvay and Manz in February to research, develop and build a new generation solid-state battery to compete with Asian and U.S. manufacturers.

The level of funding from its partners is still to be decided, Saft told Reuters in response to questions.

The company said part of its investment will come from internal funds and part, yet to be determined, will come from the European Union’s executive arm which has said it will support the development of a European battery sector.

Europe is lagging rivals in the development of its own battery sector and European car makers have turned to dominant battery manufacturers in Asia such as Japan’s Panasonic Corp, South Korea’s Samsung SD and China’s BYD Co as demand for electric vehicles grows.

Saft plans to develop a solid-state battery technology which can be competitive by 2025, with a battery that has twice the performance of those in the market today, the company said.

It plans to develop batteries with 5,000–10,000 (charge and re-charging) cycles, with more than 10 years usage for electric vehicles, and a 20-year calendar life.

“The target is to demonstrate a prototype cell at lab level by the fourth quarter of 2019 and build up a 2 megawatt-hour (MWh) pilot line by Q4 2021,” it said.

If the project is successful, it will build a 1 gigawatt-hour manufacturing standard block by the fourth quarter of 2023, and develop larger scale production based on 2024 market demand, Saft said.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle