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France drives progress in electric vehicles and clean energy

27 June 2008 – France's government has made clean energy a priority, and the country is host to numerous projects at the forefront of research into electric vehicles, supported by France's excellent R&D tax credit.

France is now leading the way in research into fuel alternatives and the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions, with a particular focus on the development of electric vehicles run on new-generation batteries with high-energy density or electricity produced by fuel cells. Using the latest electronics, these batteries provide a vehicle with a minimum range of approximately 150km.

French car manufacturers have been perfecting this process since the 1980s. Second-generation electric vehicles (with lithium batteries) are being developed by partnerships such as that between SEV (Electronique Serge Dassault) and Heuliez, the car-concept designer, to produce the CleaNova, which is already being used by La Poste (the French postal service), Veolia, Accord and EDF. The Bolloré group is working with Italian company Pininfarina to develop the BlueCar project by the end of 2008.

By 2011, Renault-Nissan will be producing 100% electric vehicles for Renault Israel, a project estimated at €150 million. By 2011, Renault-Nissan will also supply Danish consumers with 100% electric vehicles that comply with European Union standards, in conjunction with the Project Better Place company and local electricity supplier DONG. In France, Matra distributes electric cars manufactured by US company GEM.

The French government designated transport policy a priority during the Grenelle Environment Round Table in 2008. The aim of the Round Table, which was instigated by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, was to define the key points of government policy on ecological and sustainable-development issues for the coming five years.

The technical and energy environment is already favourable in France thanks to the high number of recharging stations available to the public that are already established in urban areas. Municipal authorities are increasingly sensitive to the need for hybrid or totally electric vehicles in cities.

These advantages explain the high level of interest in France shown by international industrial companies over the past several years, notably Johnson Controls (which has teamed up with SAFT), as well as many other players in the automotive industry, including Delphi, General Motors, Honda, Robert Bosch, Volkswagen and other manufacturers that are involved in the production of traction chains for electric or hybrid vehicles. Toyota recently entered into a partnership with EDF to promote the new-generation Plug-in Prius hybrid electric vehicle. The batteries used in these hybrid vehicles can be charged with a simple electric plug, offering increased power supply for short journeys.

“The French government has been supporting R&D heavily since 1 January 2008, with the best R&D tax-credit system in Europe, which reimburses 50% of R&D costs in the first year. This credit, together with the eight innovative clusters dedicated to the automotive sector, is a boost to this industry, playing an important role in innovation and subcontracted research for industrial firms engaged in the development and production of new solutions,” says Philippe Favre, President of Invest in France.

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