Why a Chinese Company Dominates Electric Car Batteries
Beijing gave CATL lavish subsidies, a captive market of buyers and soft regulatory treatment, helping it to control a crucial technology of the future.
CATL’s headquarters, shaped like an oversize lithium battery, in Ningde, China.Credit…Qilai Shen for The New York Times
- Dec. 22, 2021,
- Dec. 22, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ET
NINGDE, China — As the global pandemic hit, the world’s biggest maker of electric car batteries, a Chinese company now worth more than General Motors and Ford combined, suddenly faced its own crisis.
A rival had released a video suggesting that a technology used by the company, CATL, and other manufacturers could cause car fires. Imitating a Chinese government safety test, the rival had driven a nail through a battery cell, one of many in a typical electric car battery. The cell exploded in a fireball.
Chinese officials took swift action — by dropping the nail test, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. The new regulation, released two months later, listed who had drafted it: First on the list, ahead of the government’s own vehicle testing agency, was CATL.