In Hungary, the population protests against the Catl battery factory, the second in Europe, which the Orbán government has promoted with public money. But Budapest is not the only one to wink at the Chinese. All the details
Are Hungarians holding back CATL (and Mercedes) plans on electric car batteries?
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, better known as CATL, is a Chinese company that produces batteries for electric vehicles: it is the largest company in the world in this sector, with a global market share of more than 37 percent . Its factories are concentrated in China, but Thursday it started operations in a plant in Germany, in Arnstadt, and is preparing to open a plant also in Hungary, in the city of Debrecen.
CATL's Debrecen plant – in partnership with German automaker Mercedes-Benz – is valued at €7.3 billion: Automotive News Europe website described it as the single largest investment in the country.
HUNGARIAN POPULAR OPPOSITION TO BATTERY FACTORIES
Popular opposition to the Chinese company's plans, however, is strong. Yesterday, Debrecen residents disrupted a municipal meeting in the city – the second most populous in the country, after the capital Budapest – shouting “traitors” at public officials and accusing them of failing to consider the socio-environmental risks associated with the plant: large consumption of water and electricity; destruction of agricultural land.
This is not an isolated case: there had already been similar protests in various parts of the country selected by other battery manufacturers – such as South Korea's Samsung SDI and SK Innovation – to build new factories or expand existing ones.
The demonstration in Debrecen is also relevant on a political level, because the city is a stronghold of the consensus of Fidesz, the right-wing populist party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán .
HUNGARY'S PLANS ON BATTERIES AND ELECTRIC CARS
Hungary is already a manufacturing hub for several car manufacturers such as the Japanese Sukuzi and the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz. It is therefore trying to attract investments in the production of batteries to maintain its relevance in this phase of great transformation of the industry towards electric mobility.
The Orbán government has said precisely that the battery projects will stimulate economic growth in the years to come and allow the creation of thousands of jobs. According to the Hungarian Investment Agency, in the last six years the country has obtained investment pledges from battery producers of more than 14 billion euros and twenty thousand new jobs.
Some analysts see CATL's investment as confirmation of Orbán's pro-Chinese line in foreign policy, although the company has already opened another factory in Europe, in Germany. Beijing, moreover, is Berlin's largest trading partner: it accounts for 12.4 percent of German imports and 7.4 percent of exports. 40 percent of German automaker Volkswagen's sales depend on the Chinese market.
WHAT CATL WILL DO IN HUNGARY
In August, Mercedes-Benz announced its participation in the construction of the CATL factory in Debrecen, which will have a production capacity of 100 gigawatt hours, an amount capable of powering over a million cars. It will make both battery cells and modules, and will cover an area of 221 hectares within the industrial park south of the city. CATL has specified that it will be powered by electricity generated from renewable sources.
The facility will be located in close proximity not only to the plants of Mercedes-Benz, but also to those of BMW, Stellantis and Volkswagen, all of which will need batteries to build their electric vehicles.
THE FAVORS OF THE ORBÁN GOVERNMENT
The Hungarian government favored CATL's investment, classifying it as a "priority" for the national economy and using around 90 billion HUF – this is public money – to finance the expansion of electricity infrastructure in the Debrecen industrial park.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/smartcity/catl-ungheria-fabbrica-batterie-debrecen-proteste/ on Fri, 27 Jan 2023 08:58:00 +0000.