EV maker BYD investing RMB 4 billion in Guangzhou battery gigafactory

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BYD’s headquarters in Shenzhen, located in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. (Image credit: BYD)

Build Your Dreams (BYD), a Chinese battery and electric vehicle maker backed by Warren Buffett, announced Sunday that it was investing RMB 4 billion ($58 million) to build a battery gigafactory with an annual output value of RMB 13 billion in Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong province.

The new battery plant will mainly develop and produce lithium-ion batteries for consumer electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops, reported Chinese media. Construction will begin late this month and BYD hopes to begin production by 2020, it said. The company began selling batteries to a list of global tech giants beginning in the early 2000s, including Samsung, Dell, Motorola, and Huawei.

BYD was not immediately available for comment.

Founded in 1995 as a battery manufacturer by Wang Chuanfu, a former government chemist, BYD moved into automobiles in 2002 with the acquisition of a state-owned carmaker Xi’an Qinchuan. The Shenzhen-based company launched its first plug-in hybrid in the name of BYD Auto in 2008 and started mass-producing electric vehicles a year later.

Official sales records show that BYD held the lead in global EV sales by a tiny margin in 2018, selling around 248,000 electric vehicles, surpassing Tesla by around 2,000 units. China’s BAIC and BMW lagged far behind, with sales figures of around 158,000 and 143,000, respectively.

However, Tesla surpassed BYD in the global EV battery deployment with 2,889 MWh (mega-watt hours) as of end-March, more than doubling second-place BYD’s 1,387 MWh, according to figures from research firm Adamas Intelligence. This means BYD’s average battery capacity is much lower than Tesla’s. The US EV giant has deployed nearly as many MWh as the next nine automakers on the list combined, including Nissan, Renault, and BMW.

In addition to the battery plant in Guangzhou, BYD has launched two battery production bases for electric vehicles this year in Changsha, capital of central Hunan province, and the southwestern municipality of Chongqing. China’s largest EV maker reportedly aims for an annual cell production of more than 100 GWh (gigawatt-hours) with its five production bases in China by 2020.

Tesla has yet to reveal detailed figures of its Gigafactory 3 that is presently under construction in Shanghai, but Panasonic’s 10 production lines in Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 have an output of 24 GWh per year despite the theoretical capacity of 35 GWh, according to a tweet by Tesla founder Elon Musk in April.