French oil giant Total and European automaker Opel will collaborate on electrical vehicle cell manufacturing, with a maximum potential capacity of 48 gigawatt-hours.
Total, via its energy storage company Saft, and Opel, part of France's Groupe PSA, will kick off the arrangement with an exploratory research and development pilot plant opening next year. Based on the results achieved by that 200-strong research team, a final investment decision will be made on an 8-gigawatt-hour plant in the north of France. That facility would be scaled up to 24 gigawatt-hours before being replicated with a sister plant of the same size in Germany by 2030.
The plans will be executed via a new joint venture called Automotive Cell Company. The total investment could exceed €5 billion ($5.5 billion), with €1.3 billion of public funding committed from both the French and German governments and the European Union. 
“In 2015, Total set an ambition to become the responsible energy major," said Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné in a statement. "With that in mind, we acquired Saft, a major battery maker, in 2016, primarily to develop energy storage to support the growth of intermittent renewable energies such as solar and wind. The fast-growing development of electric mobility offers Total, via Saft, another opportunity for growth and commitment to a decarbonized economy,” 
If the project proceeds to commercial scale, Saft’s share in Automotive Cell Company will drop from 50 to 33 percent.
European battery manufacturing is attracting increasing attention from industry and governments alike. Last month the EU allocated €3.2 billion for battery research and innovation. It said at the time that batteries were of both economic and societal strategic importance for the bloc. As part of the EU’s Green Deal, legislation establishing a “Strategic Action Plan on Batteries” will be presented in October.
Prior to today’s announcement by Total and Opel, the Wood Mackenzie Energy Storage Service was tracking 285 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion manufacturing either operational or under development across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The global tally currently stands at 745 gigawatt-hours of manufacturing online or planned globally.
Earlier this month Tesla secured a 300-hectare site for Gigafactory 4 in Germany. Progress has been momentarily held up while unexploded bombs from World War II are disposed of safely, a fairly common occurrence during major construction works in the U.K. and Germany.
The U.K. government has previously highlighted battery manufacturing as a priority. More details could be provided when the country’s first post-Brexit budget is introduced on March 11.
A number of Asian manufacturers are planning battery factories in Europe. Amperex Technology is looking to set up shop in Germany in the wake of signing supply deals with BMW and Volkswagen. LG Chem is building a 65- to 70-gigawatt-hour factory in Poland with help from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, expected to be up and running in 2022.
Samsung SDI is planning a €1.2 billion expansion of its existing plant in Hungary. The European Union is currently investigating the legality of state support for that investment.