(Bloomberg) -- French battery startup Verkor secured more than €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) in green loans to complete a plant in northern France, helped by President Emmanuel Macron‘s efforts to attract electric-vehicle investments and compete with the US and China.  

The new €1.5 billion factory, under construction at the port of Dunkirk, helps expand a growing EV ecosystem in northern France, Verkor Chief Executive Officer Benoit Lemaignan said Friday in an interview. 

“There’s a major dynamic to try and support this industry in France,” he said. “There is real enthusiasm — the government made big efforts to push for this.”

The area around Dunkirk has attracted other investments, such as from Taiwanese battery maker ProLogium Technology Co., thanks to its location close to electric-car factories in France and neighboring countries, a deep-water harbor and rail connections.

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Verkor, funded in 2020 and based in Grenoble, has now secured more than €3 billion in financing to build its first EV battery factory and a research center. Renault SA owns 10% of Verkor and has one board seat. 

The European Union last year eased its rules on nations providing subsidies after the US pulled in major investment commitments on the promise of generous tax relief and aid for green technologies. The frenetic pace of new developments of recent years has since cooled amid slower-than-expected EV uptake particularly in Europe. 

“At the start, everyone expected electrification to happen very quickly,” the Verkor CEO said. “What we are experiencing now is a small pause before the next acceleration that will come soon thanks to the introduction of many new EV models, such as Renault’s R5 and Scenic and others.”

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The factory is among five of its kind planned in France, as Macron pushes to compete with China. Verkor’s site is due to start operations next year with an initial capacity to supply roughly 200,000 vehicles annually.   

Verkor will make nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries at a time companies including Renault are scouting for cheaper, less powerful lithium-iron-phosphate batteries to slash the cost of their EVs amid cut-throat competition from Chinese manufacturers.

“NMC batteries are excellent products and demand will remain strong for vehicles with longer autonomy,” he said. Verkor also has plans to look at lower-priced battery solutions longer term, including sodium-ion and LFP, he added.

Sixteen commercial banks, including Banco Santander, Natixis, ING Bank, La Banque Postale and Societe Generale as well as three public banks participated in the latest financing round, Verkor said Friday.

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