Chinese Battery Upstart tries to muscle the Big Sparks

If you read this blog regularly (and there are a few of you), you will have become familiar with the big players in the battery-making b...

If you read this blog regularly (and there are a few of you), you will have become familiar with the big players in the battery-making business; no, we are not talking Duracell or Eveready, but those companies that are forging ahead in the Li-ion cart and stationary storage sectors of the market. These are of course the likes of Panasonic and the Korean Samsung and LG Chem, all of which are expanding their European presence to be closer to the market. Let’s also not forget Tesla, which with the help of Panasonic is creating the Gigafactory in Nevada.

However, if you haven’t heard of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) of China, we can’t blame you but in future you may want to pay them some attention; well, that is according to Reuters. Whilst they may have arrived slightly late to the party, the company, which is based in Ningde City, more than tripled its battery output last year and quadrupled its value to a staggering US$11.5 billion. This puts it ahead of LG Chem in terms of battery output and it has fellow Chinese-owned BYD and Panasonic firmly in their sights.

There is an EV boom in China right now, spurred on by the county’s lack of oil reserves, a massive increase in personal car ownership and of course the government's fight with the annual smog blanket that cloaks much of the north of the country. It is the boom that the CEO of CATL, Huang Shillin, believes will lead his company to the top of the pile by 2020, assuming that they can continue to innovate whilst driving the price down.

CATL is also planning to spread its base into Europe and will assumedly try to get close to one of its main European customers down in Bavaria, which goes by the name of BMW. They will probably be helped by Chinese Government intervention as well, as the Ministry of Industry has been encouraging smaller battery manufacturers to merge or quit the business by increasing minimum production requirements up to the 8GWh level. This leaves the two big Chinese players, BYD and CATL, as the only two players left in what could be the biggest single market for this technology in the world. On top of this, the Chinese Government has awarded CATL with US$15 million in incentives, that is assuming it can lower its battery costs by a whopping 50% and increase energy density by 60% by 2020.

The technology race to become the best battery is far from over and Research and Development will be a top priority for all the major players. China has the intention of becoming the global leader in what it calls “new energy vehicles” so that country’s battery business is riding the wave. CATL just happens to be in the right place, at the right time, and fortunately has the benefit of Government backing, so perhaps they will become a global leader. But is it fair?

image: Reuters


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