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Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL) said in March 2021 that it would invest $5 billion into potential electric vehicle battery cell manufacturing sites in North America. CATL is now moving closer to locking in a plant in the United States, according to an exclusive report from Reuters, which said the Chinese battery maker is now vetting sites in South Carolina and Kentucky.
CATL is now in talks to serve BMW AG and Ford Motor Company. BMW and Ford have assembly plants in North Carolina and Kentucky, which makes a potential partnership with CATL both likely and ideal, considering the location alone. Talks are currently ongoing, according to two anonymous sources.
The reports follow CATL’s plans to spend $5 billion in North America to establish a massive cell plant capable of manufacturing 80 gigawatt-hours annually.
South Carolina would provide CATL with the quickest turnaround for battery cell production to begin, which is slated for 2026, if the Chinese battery maker chooses this location for the plant. CATL Chairman Zeng Yuqun said earlier this week that the company was looking to localize production for the companies it supplies batteries for overseas. CATL had started mass production of battery cells for customers in overseas markets, Yuqun said during the company’s earnings call earlier this week. The company was strategizing to lock in its reputation as a major battery supplier to automakers outside of China.
Localizing production would be advantageous to this narrative, but it could also help ease bottlenecks in logistics and raw materials output. The strategy could also be used to cut some costs as CATL announced this week it would be raising prices in Q2.
CATL continues to ramp the output of EV battery cells as the demand for EVs globally continues to increase. Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm, said CATL is on track to increase cell output by three times by 2025.
Tesla, which has a supply deal with CATL, was not discussed in the report for the potential plants in South Carolina or Kentucky. However, BMW was willing to comment, stating that it was “intensively examining the possibility of establishing a battery factory.” It did not explicitly state it was in discussions with CATL but did say it was in talks with “several partners.” BMW operates an assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and already has a partnership with CATL in Europe. CATL’s first cell manufacturing plant outside China will open in Arnstadt, Germany, later this year and will serve BMW, among other car companies.
The plant is expected to have an initial capacity of 8 gigawatt-hours and cost $1.89 billion.
Ford declined to comment but is relevant as it operates two vehicle assembly plants in Louisville, Kentucky. Ford also has plans to build two battery plants in a joint venture with SK in Glendale, Kentucky.
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