CATL Plans to Establish R&D Center in Hong Kong to Support Technology Export, Sources Say

Technology Author: Yiru Qian Mar 05, 2024 03:20 PM (GMT+8)

This move aligns with CATL' strategy to strengthen the export of battery technology.


Chinese battery giant CATL is in discussions of the establishment of a R&D center in Hong Kong to develop new technologies and create more intellectual property that can be licensed abroad and within the industry, its chairman Robin Zeng, also the member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told reporters on March 4 during China's 'two sessions' 2024 meetings.

At a time when Chinese electric vehicles and batteries face increasingly stringent scrutiny from foreign governments, CATL's potential expansion of research and development in Hong Kong is consistent with the group's strategy of placing greater emphasis on exporting battery technology rather than just batteries.

Earlier, according to a post on CATL's official account, the company signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on December 8, 2023, with a total investment of over HKD 1.2 billion. In addition to establishing a research center in Hong Kong, CATL will also set up its international headquarters and international investment center in Hong Kong. 

Under the agreement, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation will support CATL's deep involvement in business operations and cooperation in key areas such as energy, transportation, industry, and infrastructure in Hong Kong, promoting the green manufacturing of new energy products and the investment development of renewable energy in Hong Kong.

In terms of installed capacity, according to data from the China Power Battery Industry Innovation Alliance, CATL's installed capacity was 167.1 GWh (gigawatt-hours) in 2023, with a market share of 43.11%, ranking first in the domestic market. According to the latest statistics released by SNE Research, in the first 11 months of 2023, CATL's global installed capacity was 233.4 GWh, a year-on-year increase of 48.3%, with a market share of 37.4%, maintaining its position as the world's largest in terms of electric vehicle battery usage. The strong performance of CATL in overseas markets is a key factor in increasing its global market share.

Currently, CATL has established five major research centers and thirteen production bases, in addition to locations in Fujian, Jiangsu, Shanghai, and other parts of China, it also has a research center in Munich, Germany, and production bases and subsidiaries in Germany, Hungary, the United States, France, and other countries.

However, according to Reuters, CATL's attempts overseas have encountered obstacles. In 2023, Ford announced plans to invest USD 3.5 billion in Michigan, USA, to establish an electric vehicle battery plant using Ningde Times' technology, but this deal was opposed by some US lawmakers.

At the same time, concerns about China's influence in the electric vehicle battery supply chain have extended to China's growing role as an automotive exporter. At a time when domestic demand is weakening, exports have been a driving force for growth for Chinese automakers.

The European Commission launched an investigation last year into subsidies for electric vehicles in China. Quoting Reuters, when asked about Europe's concerns about China's excess capacity in electric vehicles, Zeng said that the EU probe does not worry him as Europe does not have enough "higher-quality" products yet. And the EV industry has received "regular support from the government" as China pursues its carbon neutrality goals.

"While the European market has seen a slight slowdown, with electric vehicle batteries considered too expensive, more battery plant investments there will enable further growth," Zeng said. At the same time, he believes that Germany will "catch up very quickly" in electrification and could be asking China for more EVs in a few years.

Previously at the end of February, the United States initiated an investigation into whether Chinese vehicle imports pose national security risks and could impose restrictions due to concerns about "connected" car technology. Zeng commended that such concerns were unnecessary and could be addressed through communication.