China to build many gigafactories’ worth of electric-car battery plants

While the United States federal government threatens to backslide on renewable energy, California and China continue to move at an aggressive pace to lead the world in zero-emission vehicles.

However, there’s another piece to the electric-car puzzle that China seems poised to lead as well: battery production.

As the global market for electric and plug-in car grows, battery production will need to increase dramatically to match demand.

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It’s expected that electric-vehicle batteries will become a $240 billion industry, and China has already begun to cement itself as a leader in battery production.

In China alone, there are 140 electric-vehicle battery makers, and in the next 20 years, they’ll likely reap the rewards of early adoption, according to a Forbes report.

Combined, they have already led global battery cell manufacturing production to produce 125 Gigawatt-hours (1 GWh is equal to 1 million kilowatt-hours) worth of cells last year alone.

Tesla gigafactory as photographed by drone, May 17, 2015 [screen capture from YouTube video]

Back in 2014, Tesla announced that it would collaborate with Panasonic to build its (first) Gigafactory, which would produce 35-GWh worth of cells every year once it hit full capacity, as noted by Tesla in a 2014 presentation.

China’s rapid production underscores Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s later suggestion that it would need multiple gigafactories across the globe to achieve its production goals.

Cell production globally is expected to double from 125 GWh to 250 GWh by 2020, also led by Chinese battery production.

Tesla gigafactory: Planned 2020 production of lithium-ion cells [slide: Tesla Motors, Feb 2014]

Even with the rapid increase of production, analysts suggest that 250 GWh will not be enough for the automotive industry to turn away from fossil fuels to electrified cars in the volumes expected.

The report states total cell production will need to increase tenfold between 2020 and 2037 to match demand.

That’s the equivalent of adding 60 new gigafactories.

READ THIS: VW says it needs ’40 gigafactories’ for electric-car batteries by 2025

German automakers have lately begun to toughen up on the reality of battery production.

Volkswagen Group specifically said it believes it alone will need the equivalent of 40 new gigafactories to meet the its own demand for batteries as it adds electric or electrified versions of all 300 cars it makes by…

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