Power surge: Chinese electric car battery maker charges for global market

Sun Dec 25, 2016 6:27pm EST
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By Jake Spring

NINGDE, China (Reuters) - A dusty village on the outskirts of Ningde, a third-tier city in China's southeast, seems an unlikely place for the headquarters of a potential global leader in future automotive technology.

Yet China's top-down industrial policy diktats - move up the value chain, clean up polluted urban skies, and shift to plug-in cars - have Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) poised to go from hometown hero to national champion, and beyond.

China's answer to Japan's Panasonic Corp and South Korea's LG Chem Ltd has tripled its production capacity for lithium-ion car batteries in the past year to keep up with a surge in China's sales of electric cars.

After a second major funding round completed in October, the company's value quadrupled to 80 billion yuan ($11.5 billion), CEO Huang Shilin said last week.

CATL, which hopes to list on Beijing's over-the-counter exchange as part of plans to raise at least another 30 billion yuan by 2020, could be a dominant force globally.

It has already overtaken LG Chem in lithium-ion car battery output, and is chasing down Panasonic and Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co Ltd.

CATL plans to grow its battery capacity sixfold by 2020 to 50 gigawatt hours, which could put it ahead of Tesla Motor Inc's gigafactory in Nevada.

"We continue to walk where the country guides us," Huang said. "We hope by 2020 we can achieve performance and price that lead the world."   Continued...

A worker stands outside a factory of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) in Ningde, Zhejiang province, China, December 16, 2016. Picture taken December 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Jake Spring