Building of battery factory on schedule

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Aerial photo taken on June 24, 2022 shows the building of the Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL) in Ningde, southeast China's Fujian Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's electric vehicle battery maker CATL's massive investment project is forging ahead on schedule, according to the company's executives in Budapest.

CATL, or Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd, announced its 7.6-billion-euro ($8.2 billion) investment in Hungary in August 2022 to build a 100 gigawatt-hour battery plant in Debrecen, the second largest city in Hungary.

The project, located in the city's Southern Industrial Park, will supply battery cells and modules to European EV makers. It will be CATL's second battery factory in Europe after the one in the German city Erfurt in Thuringia that went into production in December 2022.

Noemi Sidlo, communications manager for CATL Hungary, said the main structure of the factory has been built.

"Everything is on schedule and production is scheduled to start in 2025," she said, adding that the factory will be equipped with CATL's cutting-edge technology.

CATL started its recruitment campaign in February with a focus on local hires. Of the more than 100 employees recruited so far, about 80 percent are local employees.

CATL is expected to become one of the biggest employers in the region once in full production. It is expected to hire 3,000 people by 2026 as the first phase of the project, but total employment could reach 8,000 or even 9,000 when all the three phases are completed, according to Balazs Szilagyi, public affairs manager of CATL Hungary. He added that this will be a gradual process according to market demand.

Sidlo said the recruitment is also a brand building campaign for CATL, as the company is integrating itself into the local community, such as by participating in local events.

She said that the cooperation between CATL and the local Hungarian government has been very good.

"Within the company, we are learning from each other. It's a good process… and it's positive," she said, adding that it is still in the process of building a corporate culture and it will take time.

"And we believe it's going to be a success story in the long term in Hungary," she said.

Sidlo said that local employees are quite good at helping the company tackle the strict rules and regulations in Hungary.

The factory in Hungary is part of CATL's bid to build its global network since German car companies such as Mercedes Benz and BMW, which have a long presence in Hungary, are switching to EV production and are going to be among major clients for CATL.

Sidlo said it is also important from the perspective of Hungary because CATL will be a big revenue source and job creator, as well as introduce its latest technology and expertise to Hungary.

"At the moment, we have started the localization of our supply chains," Szilagyi said.

Jason Chen, CEO of CATL Europe, said at the Hungarian Battery Day event in October that CATL aims to build a complete European battery manufacturing value chain with a focus on sustainability.

He said CATL is proud to have achieved carbon neutrality at four of its battery plants and that will also be the goal for the Debrecen factory.

"Our plant in Hungary will enable us to efficiently serve the needs of the European market, develop our manufacturing network, and contribute to the uptake of electric transport in Europe and the successful realization of the energy transition," he said.

In January, the Hungarian government announced a 700 billion forint ($2 billion) infrastructure development project in Debrecen to help transform the city into one of Europe's biggest EV battery production hubs.

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