Toyota leads ‘solid state’ push, but next-generation batteries still a decade away
OKYO/NAGOYA/OSAKA/ SEOUL/HUIZHOU, China — It is 5 p.m. on a weekday in Huizhou, a lake-studded city in China’s Guangdong Province, and workers are streaming out of a BYD manufacturing plant looking weary after a day’s work. Many head straight for the crowded street food stalls lined up in front of the factory for after-work noodles and drinks. “No matter how much overtime we work, we still have a manpower shortage,” said one worker.
The heavy workload at BYD’s Huizhou factory is just one indicator of the growing demand for the product built there: batteries for electric vehicles. BYD is one of the world’s top producers of EV batteries, and the company is racing to meet an ambitious goal of expanding its battery manufacturing capacity to 60 gigawatt-hours by 2020 — equal to half of China’s total in 2017.
Founded in 1995, BYD — whose slogan is “Build your dreams” — is China’s largest manufacturer of alternative fuel cars. In the West, the company is best known for its place in Warren Buffett’s stock portfolio. But in China, it is one of the companies at the vanguard of a national push to dominate the future of automaking.
Chinese policymakers have made a big bet that electric vehicles will fundamentally disrupt the 130-year-old automotive industry, and Beijing has spent tens of billions of dollars to ensure that the country emerges as the undisputed global leader.
So far, the push has been effective: Last year Chinese makers claimed seven of the top 10 slots on the list of the world’s largest suppliers of lithium-ion batteries for EVs, according to Chinese research company Gaogong Industry Research Institute.
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