The Chinese battery cell manufacturer CATL is apparently planning a large new factory with an annual capacity of 80 GWh in the immediate vicinity of the Tesla plant in Shanghai. According to a media report, CATL has already spoken with the Shanghai municipal government about building the factory.
The report by Reuters, which cites insiders, does not contain any information on the timetable. However, there is information on the technology that is to be manufactured there: According to the insiders, the cells produced in the factory will be able to be integrated directly into the chassis of the electric cars – if the factory is built. CATL announced the corresponding “cell-to-chassis” technology last year.
CATL had already started supplying Tesla with LFP cells for the Model 3 produced in China last July. However, these LFP cells are still assembled into battery packs in a preliminary stage before this pack is assembled into the vehicle. The new technology would make this intermediate step superfluous.
In addition to the potentially lower costs, another advantage is that the elimination of components means that more cells can be installed in the same space. The higher energy density of the battery system should make ranges of over 800 kilometres possible, according to Reuters.
According to the insiders, up to 5,000 jobs are to be created at the plant. The new Shanghai factory would add the said further 80 GWh to CATL’s current production capacity of 69.1 GWh and 77.5 GWh of plants currently under construction. CATL hopes to rapidly expand its cooperation with Tesla to become its largest supplier in the near future. The goal is to provide half of the battery cells Tesla uses in electric cars and stationary energy storage worldwide.
Another point that would speak in favour of the Shanghai location from CATL’s point of view, according to the insiders, is the skilled workforce. Shanghai is considered much more popular than Ningde in southern China, where the company has its headquarters. In Shanghai, CATL could draw on “a larger and more diversified talent pool” than in Ningde, according to people familiar with the matter.
CATL told Reuters it was in talks with Tesla about further cooperation. However, the cell manufacturer would not comment on plans for additional production capacity. Tesla and the Shanghai municipal government did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition to CATL, Tesla also buys its battery cells from Panasonic and LG Energy Solutions. In addition, Tesla potentially manufactures its own 4680 cells in Texas and Grünheide. However, these are likely to be intended for models from the Model Y and upwards. Tesla had indicated in the past that it wanted to rely more on LFP cells for the standard range models.