March 15, 2019 / 4:26 PM / 6 months ago

BMW, Varta apply for funds in battery cell push for e-cars

HAMBURG/BERLIN (Reuters) - Luxury carmaker BMW and Germany’s Varta have both applied for state funding aimed at supporting battery cell production for electric vehicles, they said on Friday, hitting a deadline set by the German government.

FILE PHOTO: A dashboard screen with an option to switch from petrol to battery is shown in Daan Hosli's BMW hybrid car, as he participates in a program testing whether hybrid drivers can be encouraged to drive exclusively on electric batteries in the city's centre, in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as other pollutants, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier/File Photo

Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) to support a consortium looking to produce electric car battery cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries.

BMW is seeking funds for research and development in the field of battery cells, a spokesman for the group said on Friday, adding this does not mean the company aims to produce them itself.

He said that the funding application would not necessarily lead to the carmaker participating in a consortium.

Meantime, Varta said it was planning to hike production of battery cells to over 60 million cells per year, adding that it was cooperating with European partners to advance European battery cell production.

Companies could apply for the funds until Friday.

Germany, Europe’s top economy, wants to cut reliance of its carmakers on Asian battery suppliers and protect jobs at home that may be at risk from a global shift away from combustion engines.

Skeptics have noted that Germany’s efforts might be too little too late as the production of electric vehicle battery cells is dominated by companies from China, South Korea and Japan.

Overall, six consortia applied for state subsidies at Germany’s Economy Ministry, two people familiar with the matter said.

One of the people said that German battery maker BMZ Group had formed a consortium with Deutsche Post’s Streetscooter, German start-up e.Go Mobile AG and Ford’s German subsidiary Ford-Werke GmBH.

A spokesman for Deutsche Post only said that security of supply of battery cells for its Streetscooter was important. Volkswagen said nothing had been decided yet, adding it would likely comment on the matter on Monday.

Reporting by Jan Schwartz, Michael Nienaber, Rene Wagner, Matthias Inverardi, Hans Seidenstuecker and Riham Alkousaa; writing by Thomas Seythal and Christoph Steitz; editing by Paul Carrel and Louise Heavens

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