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Renault teams with Bollore to promote electric cars

September 9, 2014

Renault SA is teaming up with French billionaire Vincent Bollore to make electric cars as the two struggle to establish a market for the emission-free vehicles, including one in Indianapolis.

Renault will assemble Bollore Group’s Bluecars at its factory in Dieppe, France, starting in the second half of 2015, the French automaker said Tuesday in a statement. Renault didn’t provide volume targets.

The companies will also set up a joint venture, 70 percent owned by Bollore and 30 percent by Renault, to provide car-sharing services in France and elsewhere in Europe. The pair will also carry out a feasibility study for Renault to make a new three-seater electric vehicle equipped with Bollore’s batteries.

The agreement comes after the French carmaker, based in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, and Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co. will miss a target of jointly selling 1.5 million electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, by 2016. There is also intense competition among makers of electric batteries such as Bollore to attract car manufacturers. Renault currently uses rival batteries in its electric vehicles.

Ballore’s Bluecars can travel about 150 miles per charge and are used in the Autolib car-share program in Paris. They were designed by Italy’s Pininfarina studio in Turin and are produced nearby by Cecomp. Bollore is starting a similar car-sharing service in Indianapolis in the U.S.

Batteries made by Bollore’s Blue Solutions in France’s Brittany province are cheaper than lithium-ion cells used in other electric cars, holding down the cost of his small vehicles, Bollore said in an interview in May. Bollore said he wants to expand to other U.S. regions such as California and offer his car-share service and electric vehicles to China and other markets.

Renault and partner Nissan Motor have a medium-term budget of 4 billion euros to develop electric-car models. Renault delivered 19,093 electric autos last year out of a total of 2.63 million cars and light commercial vehicles.

Bollore Group, based in the Paris suburb of Puteaux, has assets in the transport, agriculture, energy and communications industries, including stakes in French advertiser Havas SA and Paris-based phone and entertainment company Vivendi SA. Over 30 years, Bollore has transformed his family’s business from a struggling paper-mill into Bollore SA, a holding company with a market value of 12.9 billion euros.

Vincent Bollore is the ninth-richest person in France, with an estimated personal fortune of $5.9 billion dollars, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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