As electric cars boom, locals fear Chinese battery plant will harm land in drought-stricken Hungary (2023)

DEBRECEN – Just beyond the pastoral gardens and traditional homes of an eastern Hungarian village, a gigaproject of Chinese industry is taking shape.

Bulldozers and excavators are already preparing the land for construction of a nearly 550-acre electric vehicle (EV) battery plant. The 7.3 billion euro ($7.9 billion) factory will be one of Hungary's largest-ever foreign investments, and the government hopes it will make the Central European country a global hub of lithium-ion battery manufacturing in an era where governments are increasingly seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions by switching to electric cars.

But residents, environmentalists and opposition politicians worry that the sprawling factory — built by China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) — will exacerbate existing environmental problems, hit the country's precious water supplies and further undermine its economy to China.

“You have this viscerally bad feeling when you walk past the area where they are building. I simply feel this bad feeling in my stomach,” said Eva Kozma, 47, a local mother who has joined with other residents of a village near the building site to oppose the project.

“This is progress, this is the future? Pouring concrete over nature while we know how polluting the factory is going to be?” she said.

Kozma and others on the outskirts of Debrecen, Hungary's second-largest city, say they were blindsided by the announcement that the factory would be built on valuable agricultural land. They fear that the large quantities of water diverted to the plant for cooling equipment will threaten their water supply, and that chemicals from the plant could leech into the soil and water, damaging the region's natural resources.

That region, the Great Hungarian Plain, is threatened by desertification, a process where vegetation recedes due to high heat and low rainfall. Climate change-driven droughts and record heat waves in the area have compounded heavy water use by agriculture and depleted groundwater, resulting in devastating crop yields.

(Video) As electric cars boom, locals fear Chinese battery plant will harm land in drought-stricken Hungary

Last year, Hungary experienced its hottest summer on record, and nearly 2.5 million acres, or 20% of the country's croplands, dried out. Experts say that unless a comprehensive water retention plan is enacted, much of the region will soon be unsuitable for agriculture.

Yet despite these environmental struggles, Hungary's government believes that the European Union's ambitions to phase out the manufacture of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 present a unique opportunity for the country to take its place as a leader in EV battery production, and has embarked on a major push to attract such investments.

And there will likely be buyers: transport represents nearly a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and more than 70% of those emissions are caused by road transport. If the EU is to reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, EVs will play a pivotal role.

CATL's 100 GWh battery plant in Debrecen, which is expected to create around 9,000 jobs, is the largest of a number of EV battery factories popping up around the country, part of the government's strategy to serve foreign car manufacturers present in Hungary — like German carmakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — as they transition to battery-powered vehicles.

Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said earlier this month in Beijing that the presence of those German carmakers had “inspired” the recent spate of Chinese investments in EV battery plants, and that "the Chinese suppliers of these German companies continue to regard Hungary as the meeting point of East-West investment.”

Gabor Varkonyi, an auto industry expert, agrees that the effort to attract battery makers makes good sense for Hungary’s economy — especially given that more than 20% of the country's exports comes from the automotive industry.

(Video) China-made battery plant upsets local residents in Hungary, triggering protests

“It is very much in Hungary’s interest for these investments to appear here, especially arm in arm with German technology,” Varkonyi said. “This way, both can be tied here in the medium term, so that neither will be able to work successfully without the other. In this sense, it is an absolute national interest.”

But Dalma Dedak, an environmental policy expert with WWF Hungary, says that despite intentions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making cars electric, there's been a lack of environmental impact studies on the longer term consequences for Hungary's air, soil and water.

Details have only been released on the first phase of the CATL plant's multi-stage construction, she said, so its footprint on the environment once it is fully running remains unknown — something that has eroded trust between the affected population and the government.

“It is of concern that the approval procedure for the first phase of the plant does not show what kind of water consumption and emissions can be expected when the entire plant is built,” she said. "That is, will Hungary’s resources be sufficient for these ambitious plans?”

The water consumption of the industrial park where the factory is located is expected to amount to more than 40,000 cubic meters (10.5 million gallons) per day — doubling the drinking water consumption of Debrecen and laying a major burden on a region in the midst of a historic water crisis, Dedak said.

“In the long run, it's a problem and a question of how to supply water to such a water-scarce city,” she said.

(Video) Chinese battery plant sparks protest in Hungary

CATL says that 70% of its water consumption will come from gray water — household wastewater that has been purified — though this plan was not present in the environmental impact study for the first phase of the factory. Hungary's Ministry of Economic Development did not respond to a request for comment.

Other critics of the investment point to the economy's dependence on foreign-owned automobile companies, and see it as a deepening of the foothold Hungary has provided to China in Central Europe.

Laszlo Lorant Keresztes, president of the Hungarian parliament's Committee on Sustainable Development, said that Hungary's economy "is very vulnerable to the automotive industry, and this (plant) increases that vulnerability.”

Speaking at a protest opposing the factory in Debrecen this week, Keresztes said the roughly 800 million euros ($861 million) in infrastructure and tax incentives Hungary's government will supply to CATL is “an unrealistic amount of money per job," and that — as in the case of German car makers — the majority of capital generated would be exported.

"These are essentially assembly plants, and they take the profits away from here. It is also typical that they do not give work to Hungarian people, not to the local people, but to foreign guest workers,” he said.

Some of the residents outside Debrecen worry that the massive plant will bring traffic and noise that will spoil the idyllic community where they came to raise their children. But mostly, they're afraid of the irreversible impact it could have on their natural world.

(Video) Tesla driver reacts to real life battery swap tech | NIO vs TESLA

“They took the lands, they destroyed the soil, they destroyed the air, the water,” said Eniko Pasztor, 65, a local activist who plans to leave the area if the plant is completed as planned.

“There’s no amount of money that can fix what we have ruined. We have to make sure that what we have remains," she said. "We’ve done a lot of damage already. I don’t understand why we need more, more, more.”


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Does China make batteries for electric cars? ›

“And that has brought Chinese EV battery [companies] to the front line, the tier-one companies.” As a result, “China is leading by quite a distance in terms of cell production capacity, and essentially leading nearly all of LFP production, which is now a very promising technology,” Reid says.

What is the range of 1000 km electric car in China? ›

CATL's most recent battery, called Qilin, has an energy density of 255 Wh/kg and can power an electric vehicle for 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) on one charge. Chinese EV battery manufacturer CATL has developed its most powerful unit that promises range of 1,000 kms on a single charge.

How did China come to dominate the world of electric cars? ›

As a result of generous government subsidies, tax breaks, procurement contracts, and other policy incentives, a slew of homegrown EV brands have emerged and continued to optimize new technologies so they can meet the real-life needs of Chinese consumers. This in turn has cultivated a large group of young car buyers.

Is China leading in electric cars? ›

China is the leading market for electric cars, and more were sold there last year than in the rest of the world. Foreign automakers see an urgent need to gain a foothold in China to develop the know-how and manufacturing scale necessary to compete globally.

Which country is leading in battery technology? ›

China is far ahead of the rest of the world in the development of batteries that use sodium, which are starting to compete with ubiquitous lithium power cells.

What country makes the most batteries for electric cars? ›

Source of EV Batteries

China currently dominates the global EV and EV supply-chain market, but global governments are vying to secure their own supply chains. When it comes to the components that make up these batteries, they can be traced back to several specific countries.

What is the longest range EV in the world? ›

1. 2023 Lucid Air: 516 Miles. Taking the EV driving range win is California-based Lucid Motors. Its top-spec Air sedan has the highest EPA-estimated range of any electric car sold today.

How much does it cost to buy a Chinese electric car? ›

China's largest EV maker unveiled this week the Seagull at the Shanghai auto show, shocking analysts and rivals with the car's specs: a battery range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a starting price of just over $11,000 – about a quarter of the price of most EVs now on the market in Europe.

Which electric car has the longest range in China? ›

That's why it's a pretty big deal that Chinese automaker Zeekr has unveiled a new model, the 2023 Zeekr 001, an electric car that can reportedly travel a whopping 641 miles on a single charge.

Who leads the world in electric cars? ›

China is the frontrunner, with 60% of global electric car sales taking place there in 2022. Today, more than half of all electric cars on the road worldwide are in China.

Who owns the battery in an electric car? ›

Who owns the battery in an electric car? Most batteries are now included in the purchase price of an EV, but in the early days of electric cars, in the Noughties, some manufacturers would sell you the car but lease the battery separately.

Are EV cars really the future? ›

According to Protocol, the ratio of electric cars to gas cars will gradually increase too: By 2025, electric vehicle sales could comprise up to 20% of new car sales. By 2030, electric vehicle sales could reach 40% of new car sales. By 2040, electric vehicle sales could account for nearly all new car sales.

Why are Chinese electric cars so cheap? ›

Koller said Chinese EV makers can produce vehicles for less because they have lower research and development costs, lower levels of capital spending and lower labour costs than rivals in Europe.

Why are electric cars so cheap in China? ›

With rising demand for EVs, China's dominance in the production of these raw materials has made it easier and cheaper for Chinese automakers to produce EVs and expand their market share. Additionally, in the battery cell production business, Asian companies dominate.

What country uses the most electric cars? ›

Compiled by VOI from various sources, here is a list of countries with the most electric car populations in the world. Norway is the country with the most electric car population. In this country, the share of plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) reaches 75 percent.

Which country has the most lithium in the world? ›

Bolivia. Bolivia has the highest identified lithium resources in the world with 20 million tonnes, as per the US Geological Survey data.

Which country has the biggest lithium reserves? ›

Chile holds the world's largest lithium reserves and is the world's second-largest producer. Lithium is currently produced from hard rock or brine mines. Australia is the world's biggest supplier, with production from hard rock mines. Argentina, Chile and China mainly produce it from salt lakes.

Who has the largest lithium reserves in the world? ›

Where is lithium available from? With 8 million tons, Chile has the world's largest known lithium reserves. This puts the South American country ahead of Australia (2.7 million tons), Argentina (2 million tons) and China (1 million tons). Within Europe, Portugal has smaller quantities of the valuable raw material.

Where does the lithium for electric cars come from? ›

Most lithium comes from Australia, Chile and China, which also dominates in processing lithium and making batteries. Brine from underground aquifers is pumped to the surface and into evaporation ponds.

Is there enough lithium for all cars to be electric? ›

Yes, the world has enough lithium for our electric vehicles, decades into the future. The world is currently not producing enough of it to keep up with demand. This could be a major bottleneck this decade.

Where do the raw materials for electric car batteries come from? ›

Mines extract raw materials; for batteries, these raw materials typically contain lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite. The “upstream” portion of the EV battery supply chain, which refers to the extraction of the minerals needed to build batteries, has garnered considerable attention, and for good reason.

How long do electric cars last? ›

Do electric cars lose range over time? Yes, but not as much as you may think or as fast as you may fear. Under current estimates, most EV batteries will last between 15-20 years or 100,000 to 200,000 miles before they need to be replaced, it is more likely that the battery will outlast the car.

How long do electric car batteries last? ›

Most manufacturers have a five to eight-year warranty on their battery. However, the current prediction is that an electric car battery will last from 10 – 20 years before they need to be replaced.

How long do EV batteries last? ›

Generally, electric vehicle batteries last 10-20 years, but some factors may reduce their lifespan. For instance, batteries may degrade faster in hotter climates as heat does not pair well with EVs.

Who is the biggest electric car seller in China? ›

China's EV sales almost doubled in 2022 with 87% YoY growth. BYD led the market, followed by GM Group, Tesla, Geely Holding and GAC Group. China's EV sales are expected to exceed 8 million units in 2023.

What does a car cost in China? ›

In 2019, the average price of a second-hand vehicle sold in China was around 62,700 yuan, up from about 62,200 yuan in the previous year.

How much is BMW electric car in China? ›

BMW announced today that it is launching the BMW i3 eDrive40L in China, offering two versions with starting prices of RMB 383,900 ($55,930) and 413,900 yuan, respectively. The BMW i3 eDrive40L is the premium model of the BMW i3 with better performance and longer range, the company said in a press release.

What is the fastest Chinese EV? ›

World records. The EP9 set the record for the fastest lap by an electric vehicle for the Circuit of the Americas, Shanghai International Circuit and the Circuit Paul Ricard tracks. It also set the record for the fastest lap by an autonomous vehicle at the Circuit of the Americas track.

Who makes the most electric cars in China? ›

Model rank. China is clearly dominated by BYD, the world's largest plug-in electric car manufacturer (and the second largest all-electric car manufacturer - only behind Tesla).

How many electric cars are in Canada? ›

A record 86,032 electric vehicles were registered in Canada in 2021, making up 5.3% of total vehicle registrations for that year.

Which European country has the most electric cars? ›

Number of fully electric cars exceeds a million in Germany

In 2022, the number of fully electric cars exceeded 500,000 in four European countries; namely Germany (1,089,854), the UK (641,801), France (605,791) and Norway (603,697). They were followed by the Netherlands (318,485), Sweden (205,212) and Italy (167,213).

Who is dominating the electric car industry? ›

Although Tesla continues to dominate U.S. electric vehicle registrations, the company is beginning to lose market share as more competitors appear, with a market share of only 65-percent for new EV sales, down from 79-percent in 2020. It may fall to 20-percent by 2025.

How much does it cost to replace a battery in an electric car? ›

How Much Does an EV Battery Cost to Replace? EV battery replacements range from $5,000 to $20,000 based on the pack, size and manufacturer. If a battery is within its manufacturer warranty, typically 8 years and 100,000 miles, then you should get a replacement battery at no extra cost.

How much is a battery for a Tesla? ›

Typically, depending on the car, the most basic battery replacement in Tesla costs between $5,000 and $20,000. For the Model S premium sedan, replacing a Tesla battery costs around $13,000-$20,000. Model 3 entry-level sedan and Model X premium SUV battery replacement can cost at least $13,000 and $14,000, respectively.

What happens to EV batteries at end of life? ›

EV battery second life

Once an electric car's battery has reached the end of its serviceable life – which will most likely be because the car itself has reached the end of the road – its battery pack can find a new purpose, being removed from the vehicle and reused in a number of different deployments.

What would happen if everyone switched to electric cars? ›

The US would need to produce 20-50% more electricity annually if all cars were electric vehicles.

Are gas cars going away? ›

Last month, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, a move hailed as a significant victory in the fight against climate change.

What are the disadvantages of electric vehicles? ›

Seven disadvantages of electric cars
  • Limited Battery Range. The average petrol car can easily do four or five hundred miles on a tank of petrol. ...
  • Battery Lifespan Concerns. ...
  • Charging Infrastructure Worries. ...
  • Long Charging Times. ...
  • Low Top Speeds. ...
  • More Expensive to Buy. ...
  • Environmental Impact.
Dec 15, 2022

What is the average price of an electric car in Europe? ›

(In a recent report, auto industry consultants JATO Dynamics said the average price of a new battery-only electric vehicle in Europe was €55,821 after tax ($55,000) in the first half of 2022).

Why is the EV sector down? ›

The EV industry has huge growth aspirations, but buyers may not be ready to buy as many EVs as companies are making. Electric vehicle stocks are falling across the board in 2023 as investors question how price cuts, higher interest rates, and increasing competition will impact the industry.

Why aren t electric cars more affordable? ›

It's simple: The more EVs that carmakers plan to make, the more they need raw materials for their batteries. The less available supply there is, the higher the prices for those materials can go — and the more expensive your battery is overall.

What is the range of electric vehicles in 2030? ›

Electric vehicles - average range forecast 2020-2030

The average electric vehicle on roads across the world is projected to have a range of about 440 kilometers by 2030.

What percentage of cars will be electric by 2030? ›

S&P Global Mobility forecasts electric vehicle sales in the United States could reach 40 percent of total passenger car sales by 2030, and more optimistic projections foresee electric vehicle sales surpassing 50 percent by 2030.

Why is China leading in the EV market? ›

Complementing their strengths in critical mineral mining, Chinese companies such as CATL and BYD have cornered more than 50 per cent of the global EV battery market. China's market size coupled with its dominance in the critical mineral mining and battery manufacturing space give it the option of weaponising both.

Which US city has the most electric cars? ›

Of all cities, the Los Angeles metro area boasts the largest number of electric vehicles with roughly 293,000, the brief says. It also has the most charging stations with close to 4,800. San Francisco is near the top, too, with 105,000 electric cars and the third-best EV presence in the nation's 100 largest metros.

What state has the highest number of electric cars? ›

California's status remains unchanged from 2021, when the DOE reported that it was the top state for EV registrations, followed by Florida, Texas, Washington, and New York.

What percentage of cars are electric in the US? ›

Only around 1% of all vehicles (2 500,000) in the United States were electric in 2019. In 2018, the number was around 328,118, showing a 75% year-over-year growth, demonstrating the shifting demand.

How many electric car batteries are made in China? ›

China made about 75 percent of the world's lithium-ion batteries in 2021, compared with 7 percent for the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency. That has gained the attention of Congress, considering the Biden administration's aim of ramping up electric car sales.

Does China make batteries for Tesla? ›

SHANGHAI — Tesla will build a factory in Shanghai to manufacture its large-scale energy-storage battery known as the Megapack, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.

Who is the largest EV battery manufacturer in China? ›

Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), based in east China's Fujian province, retained its position as the world's largest EV battery producer, according to Seoul-based SNE Research.

Is China the world's largest producer of EV batteries? ›

In China, the world's biggest producer of electric vehicles and batteries, recycling is the key to lithium self-sufficiency.

Where are electric car batteries made in the USA? ›

Ford announced on Monday that it will build a new $3.5 billion EV battery factory in Michigan dedicated exclusively to manufacturing LFP batteries. “This plant — called BlueOval Battery Park Michigan — initially will employ 2,500 people when production of LFP batteries begins in 2026,” Ford said in a statement.

What electric cars have batteries made in the USA? ›

The 14 Best American-Made EVs to Watch in 2023
  • #1. Tesla Roadster.
  • #2. Chevrolet Corvette EV.
  • #3. BMW iX.
  • #4. Bollinger B1 and B2.
  • #5. Chevrolet Bolt EV Crossover / EUV.
  • #6. Lucid Air.
  • #7. Ford F 150 EV (2022)
  • #8. Rivian R1T.

Does the US manufacture electric car batteries? ›

Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan are going to dominate electric vehicle battery manufacturing in the United States by 2030. Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee will also be key players.

Are Tesla batteries made in the USA? ›

Tesla is currently building the cells at its pilot plant in Fremont, California, but the automaker is deploying larger-scale cell production at Gigafactory Texas and Gigafactory Berlin.

Where does Tesla get its lithium from? ›

At the end of 2021, Tesla inked a fresh three year lithium supply deal with top lithium producer Ganfeng Lithium (OTC Pink:GNENF,SZSE:002460). The Chinese company will provide products to Tesla for three years starting in 2022.

Is there enough raw material for electric car batteries? ›

While the world does have enough lithium to power the electric vehicle revolution, it's less a question of quantity, and more a question of accessibility. Earth has approximately 88 million tonnes of lithium, but only one-quarter is economically viable to mine as reserves.

Who is the largest battery maker in the world? ›

World's largest battery maker announces major breakthrough in energy density. In one of the most significant battery breakthroughs in recent years, the world's largest battery manufacturer CATL has announced a new “condensed” battery with 500 Wh/kg which it says will go into mass production this year.

Who is the leader in EV battery technology? ›

CATL is the leading brand in EV battery manufacturing, securing 34% of the market share. Based in China, CATL manufacturers solid-state batteries and lithium-ion batteries for companies including BMW, Toyota, and Honda, to name a few.

What percentage of electric car batteries come from China? ›

China produces three-quarters of all lithium-ion batteries and possesses 70 percent of “production capacity” for cathodes and 85 percent for anodes, both vital components of batteries, according to an International Energy Agency report released in July.

What percentage of EV cars are sold in China? ›

EVs now account for one in four cars sold in China. Interestingly, the share of battery EVs (BEVs) in the country's total EV sales decreased in 2022, with plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) increasing their share to 24%. China was the second fastest-growing market among the world's top 10 EV markets in 2022 in terms of sales.

Which country is the largest producer of EV? ›

World EV Day 2022: Since 2019, China is leading the race and has emerged as the top producer and seller of electric vehicles in the world.


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