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The World’s Biggest EV Battery Producer Is About To Get Even Bigger

  • EV battery maker CATL is looking to increase its global footprint.
  • The company has announced a new $7 billion factory in Hungary and another planned factory in Mexico.
  • The manufacturer could be looking to expand with plants in the U.S. and Indonesia, as well.
EV Battery

EV battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) is growing its global expansion yet again. The world's largest EV battery producer, which had announced a $233 million factory in Germany back in 2018, has made several moves this year to increase its global footprint. Over the summer, it announced it would be building a $7.2 billion factory in Hungary. Now, plans for a factory in Mexico are also being finalized, according to Caixin. 

The report also says that the manufacturer could be looking to expand with plants in the U.S. and Indonesia. 

CATL was barely founded a decade ago, in 2011, but caught the tremendous wave of the EV industry in China (and its related subsidies). As the report notes, the company caught the government subsidy tailwind in 2015 and never looked back:

In 2015, CATL was included on a government list of EV-battery makers which carmakers had to source from to be eligible for subsidies. This narrowing of the field of competition helped the company hoover up the business from domestic and international carmakers riding the wave of growth. For example, CATL was chosen to be Volkswagen’s sole battery supplier in the country, CEO Matthias Muller told Caixin in early 2018.

CATL was able to seize this opportunity in part by achieving technological breakthroughs which made its products more competitive than its rivals. The company pioneered the use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. Though these batteries are safer, they have lower energy density, meaning that EVs powered by such batteries have lower driving range compared to those using nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) batteries. But CATL managed to improve their density by redesigning the battery packs with fewer parts.

CATL's lead among the Chinese EV market is starting to slip, dropping to 47% market share in the first 8 months of this year from 50% in 2020, the report noted. China Aviation Lithium Battery Co. Ltd. (CALB) and BYD are two major competitors in China. 

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A source told Caixin that the company's outlook on the industry is  “you either forge ahead or drift downstream.” The company will face substantial competitive forces in places like South Korea and Japan, and will have to navigate geopolitical crosswinds when attempting to enter markets like Germany and the U.S. The company is looking to upgrade its product lineup in Germany, the report says. 

Washington's Inflation Reduction Act "includes provisions that stipulate EV-makers must source batteries domestically to enjoy subsidies" and in Europe, "stringent environmental rules could also present challenges". 

But CATL has already started to make inroads with EV companies outside of China. For example, Tesla announced last October that it would use CATL's batteries in its cars delivered to global consumers, not just for cars in China. Ford announced in July that it would "import LFP batteries from CATL for its North American electric pickup trucks and SUVs", Caixin wrote. 

Liu Yanlong, general secretary at China Industrial Association of Power Sources, concluded: “By setting up production facilities, battery companies can better serve clients at their proximity by reducing costs of transportation and other logistics.”

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By Zerohedge.com

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