Two weeks after CATL received notice of the premature start of construction of its battery cell plant near Erfurt, capital of the German state of Thuringia, the official ground-breaking ceremony took place on Friday.
CATL’s first production facility outside China should have production lines running at the “Erfurt Kreuz” industrial site by the beginning of 2022.
The Chinese battery making giant will invest 1.8 billion euros in the site in the medium term and create up to 2,000 jobs. In June this year, CATL decided to increase the investment in its planned factory in Erfurt by a factor of 7.5: Instead of the originally planned 240 million euros. “In many respects, the project is an investment of superlatives,” comments Thuringia’s Economics Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, who has been promoting the location since the beginning of 2017.
The German Federal State of Thuringia has been tenacious in its fight for the contract, which lasted about one and a half years, and has now paid off. The deciding factor in favour of the Erfurt site over other options was the existing infrastructure and the accessibility of all German car manufacturers within four hours. “For Thuringia, the establishment of CATL is one of the most important industrial investments of recent decades,” he said at the ground-breaking ceremony. Matthias Zentgraf, Co-president Europe CATL said: “We believe that the combination of Germany’s industrial tradition and CATL’s tradition of innovative battery technology will greatly accelerate the electrification of the automotive industry in Europe.”
The capacity of the plant will initially amount to 14 GWh and in a later expansion stage up to 24 GWh. According to the Ministry, CATL will also invest heavily in research and development, quality control and high-quality services. In return, the state will make subsidies available, although to what extent is unclear.
According to a press release by the Thuringian Ministry of Economics, CATL intends to already start production by the end of 2020 and “has acquired a building complex from the insolvent SolarWorld Industries GmbH for this purpose at short notice”. The purchase in April stated that logistics, warehouse, and administration are to be located in the vicinity of the future production plant. Now CATL wants to make use of the production halls on the site and to begin production as quickly as possible. The details of exact production begin have yet to be confirmed, although it is apparently certain that the first 200 jobs will be created next year. In its press release, CATL has said that it will then start “a new stage of capacity expansion on 23 ha green field to achieve 14GWh production capacity of the battery by 2022.” The company says that production lines for both battery cells and modules will be “finalised in this phase of expansion”.
On the actual 70 hectare production area for the factory buildings, only one access road can be seen so far. Since June this year, CATL has been on-site with the first employees. CATL has partnerships with most of the largest manufacturers in the European automobile industry including Renault, BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, Volvo, and Bosch.