BASF-CATL Strengthen Alliance in Europe

Rather than flexing its muscles, BASF SE is rolling out the carpet for Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., even though the Chinese company is a rival maker of cathode materials for EV batteries.

But squint at what is a fairly cryptic joint press statement and you can understand the harmony. CATL is building a major EV battery plant in BASF’s backyard, but it appears to be leaving its considerable prowess in cathodes behind. At home, CATL is frenetically building battery-material capacity to keep pace with demand but, in Europe, it’s seemingly happy to leave that to BASF.

The cooperation agreement also encompasses battery recycling as the two companies look to create a sustainable battery value chain “in support of CATL’s localisation in Europe,” according to the release.

CATL, which counts Tesla and BMW as customers, is the dominant supplier in China, specialising in lithium iron phosphate batteries suitable for shorter journeys rather than the pricier nickel and manganese-rich cathodes that BASF is focused on for the European market. It now has a partner to help prove itself in Europe as it drives ahead with a $2b Greenfield battery plant in Arnstadt, Germany.

But the confidence that LFP won’t gain a meaningful foothold in Europe, where drivers tend to travel longer distances, isn’t what it used to be.

Ludwigshafen-based BASF said it’s progressing with the construction of its cathode facility in Schwarzheide, ahead of start up next year. With building of the facade of Line 1 already well under way, Line 2 is waiting in the wings with the concrete base work completed.

“Pairing BASF’s strong position as a leading supplier for cathode active materials with CATL’s expertise in lithium-ion batteries will speed up innovation and the formation of a sustainable battery value chain worldwide,” BASF board member Markus Kamieth said in the release.

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