In Race for the Biggest EV Battery Plant, BYD Steals a March
BYD opened its new 24 GWh battery factory this week in Western China’s Qinghai province, with plans to ramp up to a total production capacity of 60 GWh by 2020. The new factory joins BYD’s two other existing battery factories in Shenzhen and Huizhou.
BYD expects that the new Qinghai factory will be the largest factory in the world after its construction is completed in 2019, with a size of 1 million square meters or 10.7 million square feet. That is more than twice the finished size of the 5.1 million square foot footprint of the Tesla Gigafactory. Though, the Gigafactory will have more total factory space due to its multiple levels, which bring the total factory square footage to over 13 million square feet.
The new Qinghai factory signals a full court press by BYD into electric vehicles as global sentiment regarding internal combustion vehicles continues to shift. “Electrification is a done deal as several countries have announced a deadline for the sale of internal combustion engine cars to end. Electric vehicles are on the cusp of another boom,” said BYD President and Chairman Wang Chuanfu.
At full capacity, the factory’s 60 GWh of batteries can supply 1.2 million of BYD’s popular Tang EV. For comparison, Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 outside of Reno, Nevada, in the United States will produce 50 GWh of batteries in 2018 on the way up to its maximum capacity of 150 GWh, as of the last update from the company in 2016.
Batteries from both BYD’s and Tesla’s factories will be used in plug-in vehicles as well as stationary energy storage products in the residential, commercial, and grid markets. BYD has also established specific use cases for its batteries in rail transportation (including BYD’s SkyRail), solar power stations, and many other new energy solutions.
The Qinghai factory comes equipped with advanced manufacturing equipment, including driverless automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), smart logistics, robots for automation, and a world-class Manufacturing Execution System (MES). MES systems are used in factories to track production, material flow, and asset utilization, among other metrics. They comprise the backend of more advanced reporting systems used by finance, operations, and management.
“All our batteries come with a unique identification code,” said BYD battery division CEO He Long. “We can troubleshoot any problems simply by scanning the QR code on the battery as this gives us the battery’s technical specifications and necessary manufacturing information.”
BYD’s core competency has been batteries for the last 23 years, and thanks to the vision of Founder and Chairman Wang Chuanfu, the company has clearly been preparing for the time when batteries, automobiles, energy storage, and solar would converge. By all indications, that time is here and BYD is playing for keeps.