Car makers’ battery investments took a nativist turn this week. That isn’t a surprising development, but it brings extra risks.
On Friday, Mercedes-Benz said it would take a 33% stake in Automotive Cells Company, a European battery startup that previously received backing from French energy giant Total, trans-Atlantic car giant Stellantis and, crucially, the European Union. Total, Stellantis and Mercedes-Benz will end up with a third each of a venture that plans to spend at least €7 billion, equivalent to roughly $8.22 billion, through 2030 to build European cell-manufacturing plants, or “gigafactories” in Elon Musk’s phrase. Mercedes-Benz said it was committing less than €1 billion in total, implying heavy doses of debt and subsidies in the project.