SHANGHAI, Aug 12 (Reuters) - China's CATL said
on Friday it would build a 7.3 billion euro ($7.6 billion)
battery plant in Hungary, Europe's largest so far, as the
world's biggest electric vehicle battery maker gears up to meet
growing demand from global automakers.
CATL said that construction of the 100 GWh (gigawatt hours)
plant in the eastern Hungarian city of Debrecen, its biggest
overseas investment, would start this year after receiving
approvals, and should last no more than 64 months.
Once built, it is set to be Europe's largest battery cell
plant and CATL's second in the region, making battery cells and
modules for carmakers including Mercedes-Benz, BMW
, Stellantis and Volkswagen.
The expansion comes as European automakers accelerate a
transition to electric vehicles in their home markets, prompting
surging demand for batteries from local suppliers and causing a
run on supply deals to avoid production bottlenecks.
Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla have all
announced or started to implement major battery expansion plans
in Europe to secure access to vital cells and raw materials and
support their electrification strategies.
CATL's investment will mark "a giant leap in CATL's global
expansion", the company's founder and chairman Zeng Yuqun said
in a statement.
The Chinese company is also pressing ahead with plans for
battery production in North America by 2026 for clients
including Ford Motor, Reuters reported earlier, despite
tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The investment is also key for Hungary, which is becoming a
major hub for electric vehicles and batteries in Europe.
Debrecen is home to a plant being built by BMW, while
Volkswagen's Audi brand has a factory in western Hungary's Gyor
and Mercedes-Benz operates one in Kecskemet, in the central part
of the country.
BMW declined to comment but said it plans to release some
battery related information in early September. VW and
Stellantis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mercedes-Benz said in a separate statement it would be the
first partner to receive battery cells from CATL's Hungarian
plant, and that its order marked the highest initial order
volume for the site.
"This new state-of-the art European CATL plant in Hungary is
another milestone for the scale-up of our EV production together
with our key partners," Mercedes-Benz management board member
Markus Schaefer said.
CATL previously said it would start supplying cylindrical
cells to BMW from 2025 for its new series of electric vehicles.
The Chinese company also said it is also examining the
possibility of joining forces with local partners to establish
facilities for battery materials in Europe.
As of end of 2021, CATL had an annual battery production
capacity of 170.39 GWh, with 140 GWh capacity under
construction. The company said previously it aims to install a
total of 670 GWh annual capacity by 2025.
($1 = 0.9708 euros)
(Reporting by Zhang Yan, Brenda Goh, Christoph Steitz and
Christina Amann; Editing by Jason Neely, Mark Potter and