CATL has completed the first expansion stage of its battery cell plant in the city of Yibin in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, for which it has already commissioned the equipment. The company puts the annual capacity of the completed section at 15 GWh.
After completing the second construction phase in two years as planned, the annual production capacity is expected to total 30 GWh. CATL indicates that a total of six phases of the project are planned. However, it does not specify the targeted output at the final construction stage. CATL’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Sichuan Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL-SC), will be responsible for on-site operations.
For the further expansion, CATL and the Yibin municipal government have successively signed contracts for project phase I to phase VI since September 2019, with a total investment of more than 30 billion RMB (about 3.9 billion euros) and an area of about 3,000 acres (about 12 square kilometres). For CATL’s purposes, Yibin is very well connected; within just three hours, batteries can be shipped from the Yibin production base to vehicle production lines in Chengdu or Chongqing.
The unveiling of plans for Yibin dates back to September 2019. At that time, there was still talk of an investment of ten billion RMB (1.28 billion euros). At the start of the construction project in early 2020, it became public that of this ten billion RMB, 4.5 billion RMB (around 580 million euros) would be invested in the first phase. Given the now mentioned investment sum of 30 billion RMB, it looks like its ambitions have grown considerably in the past almost two years.
There are still no official details of the cell type to be manufactured in Yibin. Dr Robin Zeng, chairman of CATL, says, “The Yibin production base is an important part of CATL’s global layout, and it is being developed to become CATL’s most important traction battery production base with strategic significance in Southwest China. Featuring higher efficiency, the Yibin production base will deliver supporting services to OEM partners in China and around the world. CATL-SC is heading on the global stage.”
CATL surpassed LG Energy Solution as the top supplier of battery cells for new electric passenger cars in the first quarter of 2021, according to statistics released earlier this month. The comparison is based on an evaluation by Canadian consulting firm Adamas Intelligence. The consulting firm’s ‘EV Battery Capacity and Battery Metals Tracker’ reveals that CATL sold battery cells with a total capacity of 13.3 GWh to passenger car manufacturers worldwide between January and March 2021. LG Energy Solution followed in second and third place with 11.9 GWh and Tesla partner Panasonic with 9.1 GWh.
CATL continues to expand its capacities. In January, it was announced that the Chinese battery-making giant plans to expand its production capacity by 130 GWh at three plants in China at a cost of 39 billion yuan (around 5 billion euros). Plants in Ningde (Fujian province), Ritsuyang (Jiangsu province) and Yibin (Sichuan) were named. In February, the company also announced a new plant with an initial 25 GWh in the city of Zhaoqing. This month, Reuters reported that CATL is also planning a large new factory with an annual capacity of 80 GWh near Tesla’s Shanghai plant. According to the news agency, CATL has already talked with the Shanghai municipal government about building the factory, although the plan has not been officially confirmed.
That CATL will continue to expand strongly is not surprising. Worldwide, the company plans to expand its battery cell production capacity to 230 GWh in 2021 and 1,200 GWh in 2025, as reported earlier this year.
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke
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