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Tesla's Battery Supplier CATL Builds World's First ‘Zero-Carbon' EV Battery Factory

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【Summary】China-based battery manufacturer Sichuan Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL-SC), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesla’s battery supplier CATL, has received the internationally recognized specification for carbon neutrality (“PAS 2060” certification) for its new electric vehicle battery plant in China. The recent PAS 2060 certification makes the plant the world’s first zero-carbon factory in the industry.

Eric Walz    Mar 25, 2022 2:50 PM PT
Tesla's Battery Supplier CATL Builds World's First ‘Zero-Carbon' EV Battery Factory

China-based battery manufacturer Sichuan Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL-SC), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tesla's battery supplier CATL, has received the internationally recognized specification for carbon neutrality ("PAS 2060" certification) for its new electric vehicle battery plant in China. The recent PAS 2060 certification makes the plant the world's first zero-carbon factory in the new energy industry. 

The certification marks a significant milestone for CATL towards its carbon neutrality goals. As the world's first zero-carbon battery plant, CATL's Sichuan plant sets an example of how battery production can be carbon neutral.

CATL-SC's parent company CATL is the world's biggest producer of electric vehicle batteries.

Zhu Yunfeng, general manager of CATL-SC, said the plant established a zero-carbon roadmap at the early stages of its construction. The company reached its zero-carbon goal through innovations in energy utilization, transportation, logistics, and manufacturing. As a result, the plant is able to produce batteries of higher quality using less raw materials and carbon emissions. 

Becoming "zero carbon" has become one of the core competencies of the CATL-SC subsidiary of CATL.

To become PAS 2060 certified, CATL-SC said it developed a "trailblazing smart plant management system", which enables the interconnection of data by  automatically capturing the plant system data and equipment operation data. The system-wide facility management platform helps to ensure safe, reliable, high-efficiency and low-carbon operation of the facility. 

Even the forklifts used at the plant are electric. Employees are also encouraged to use electric vehicles and shared mobility to get to work, further reducing their carbon footprint.

For the battery manufacturing equipment installed at the plant with high-energy consumption, CATL-SC developed what it calls a "global optimization algorithm", which calculates each sub-equipment's operating parameters with the lowest total energy consumption of the overall system. 

CATL-SC also built a central control and management system for the green manufacturing of EV batteries. It includes a global visual management system for the steps in the production process. The AI-powered visual inspection system features an automatic learning and extraction process for defective batteries. It has helped improve the detection rate in processes such as "slitting" and "calendaring", which are two main production steps in battery electrode manufacturing.

The visual system has significantly reduced process losses, according to CATL-SC. 

The first stage in battery manufacturing is the fabrication of positive and negative electrodes. The main processes in this step include mixing, coating, calendering, slitting and electrode making. The standard equipment used in this initial step are mixing, coating machine, roller press, slitting machine and electrode making machine.

Once the electrode material is manufactured, the calendering process uses a roller machine to compress and compacts the electrode onto foils in a consistent thickness to improve the energy density of the battery, as well as to provide further dust and humidity control for the electrode. 

Once the electrode material is pressed into uniform rolls, its cut into narrow slices of the required width using a slitting machine. 

At this stage of production, any burning or buckling of the electrode material will increase the risks of internal shorts that can cause serious safety issues with the battery. After each section is cut to a uniform size, its width and flatness is checked, including for the presence of burrs.

All the waste materials produced during EV battery manufacturing will be recycled, and the recovery rate of precious metals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese can reach 99.3%, according to CARL-SC.

The plant's location further helped it become zero-carbon. The CATL-SC factory is located in Yibin, southwest China's Sichuan Province. Three major rivers, the Jinsha Minjiang and Yangtze Rivers traverse the northern part of the city, providing abundant water sources. It enables the plant to reduce 400,000 tons of carbon emissions every year, as over 80% of the plant's energy consumption comes from hydropower.

CATL-SC's parent CATL is emerging as a leader in EV battery production on a global scale. In December, CATL began phase 1 production at its newest EV battery factory in China. Once completed, the plant will be the world's largest EV battery factory with an annual production of 120 GWh. The plant will be more than three times the size of Tesla's gigafactory in Nevada.

CATL is investing 17 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) in the plant and said it will create about 10,000 jobs once fully operational.

The first phase of operations will have an annual capacity of 60 GWh and the additional 60 GWh for phase 2. The annual output of 120 GWh is enough to power around 1.2 million EVs. 

In the future, CATL said it will replicate the steps that helped it achieve its PAS 2060 cetification in other facilities, as part of the company's efforts to achieve carbon neutrality in its 10 production bases worldwide.

CATL was founded in 2011 after making lithium ion batteries since 1999 for consumer electronics. Shortly after relocating its headquarters to Ninge City, the company got its start working on the Zhangbei energy storage project, which at the time was the largest wind and solar energy project in the world. From there, CATL pivoted to making EV batteries for automakers.

From 2017 to 2020, CATL ranked first in the world for four consecutive years in terms of the total installed capacity of batteries in electric vehicles. 

CATL is also a major battery supplier to Tesla. In Feb 2020, CATL inked a two-year deal to supply batteries to Tesla for its vehicle built in China. 

Ningde City, where CATL is headquartered, has become a regional manufacturing hub for China's lithium-ion battery industry. It is now the largest lithium-ion battery production base in the world.

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