BOUCHERVILLE - A French billionaire who's in the thick of the global rush to bring affordable, reliable electric cars to the masses says he has the battery power to win the race.

Vincent Bollore announced Tuesday that his company, Bollore Group, will invest $120 million in a battery-producing factory east of Montreal.

The facility, purchased from Hydro-Quebec by Bollore in 2007, already churns out a few hundred electric-car power plants a year.

With this investment, he aims to boost production to 15,000 annually.

The batteries will be built using lithium-metal-polymer technology, which give his cars a range of 250 kilometres and a top speed of 130 km/hr.

He said his company is a leader in the technology.

"It's the first big factory in the world for (lithium-metal-polymer batteries),'' he said.

Safety claims

Bollore said his product is safer than the lithium-ion batteries that major automakers, such as General Motors and Nissan, are counting on to propel their soon-to-be-released lines of electric cars.

Lithium-ion batteries, often used in laptops and mobile phones, have been known to overheat and even catch fire, he added.

"Such a technology is not good for a big quantity of energy,'' said Bollore, who indicates there's no overheating risk with his technology.

"For a car, of course, it would be very dangerous.''


He plans to hire 200 new workers -- on top of the facility's 70 employees -- to build batteries for his company's electric car, BlueCar, and its 22-passenger Microbus. Both vehicles are produced in Italy.

Bollore, listed by Forbes last year as worth an estimated US$1.4 billion, expects his cars to eventually be priced for the general public.

"It will be a popular car -- that's what I think, but time will tell,'' he said.