Global gigafactory pipeline hits 300; China dominates but the West gathers pace

The number of gigafactories in the pipeline has surpassed 300 as the global rush to develop lithium ion battery production capacity continues.

There is now 6,387.6 gigawatt hours (GWh) of lithium ion battery capacity in the pipeline as assessed in Benchmark’s May 2022 Gigafactory Assessment, a 68% year-on-year increase.

China continues to dominate gigafactory announcements, but North America and Europe have seen significant growth over the past two years thanks in part to automaker and battery manufacturer joint ventures. 

“Within the last year, with a push to achieve net zero goals and major OEMs and automakers looking to accelerate the electrification of their businesses, announcements for new gigafactories have picked up pace with Benchmark adding over a 100 new cell plants to its assessment since April 2021,” says Benchmark analyst Hanisha Tirumalasetty.

 

Automaker-battery joint ventures drive Western growth

Outside of China, North America has seen the fastest growth of any region, adding 11 gigafactories to its pipeline since this time last year. Europe has increased its pipeline by eight gigafactories over the same period.

Joint ventures between automakers and battery companies have been central to this growth. In September 2019, just one of the five North American gigafactories tracked by Benchmark directly involved an automaker – Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. Now, 14 of the 23 North American gigafactories in the pipeline are wholly or jointly owned by automakers, representing 81% of the region’s capacity pipeline for 2031.

Tesla has two solo factories in the region and one in partnership with Panasonic, representing about a third of the North American pipeline capacity. General Motors recently announced further partnerships with LGES, taking it up to four gigafactories in the region. Ford is partnered with SKI on three gigafactories.

In March, Stellantis partnered with LGES to develop a gigafactory in Canada, the first added to Benchmark’s Gigafactory Assessment for the country. It also partnered with Samsung SDI in the US. Through ACC, Stellantis will also operate three European gigafactories by 2031.

A third of the 30 European gigafactories assessed in May 2022 involved an automaker, representing 40% of the continent’s pipeline capacity, compared to just one of the 13 gigafactories in the September 2019 assessment. 

China’s lead continues

China remains the dominant builder of gigafactories, with 226 due to be operational by the end of the decade, making up over 75% of all facilities tracked in Benchmark’s Gigafactory Assessment. 

The 300th gigafactory added to Benchmark’s Gigafactory Assessment is being developed by Chinese cell manufacturer EVE Energy in Chengdu, Sichuan. The $3 billion plant will have a capacity of 50 GWh. Benchmark expects the first 20 GWh phase to be operational in 2026 and the full capacity to be online in 2029.

In 2031, China is set to have almost 4,500 GWh of gigafactory capacity, representing 70% of global capacity.

Automakers look upstream

While many gigafactory announcements have been driven by automakers teaming up with battery makers, these collaborations need to go further into raw materials according to Tirumalasetty. “You have to go further upstream to figure out where you’re getting your raw material from,” Tirumalasetty says. “That’s the only way to control the supply chain.”

Tirumalasetty notes that there is “very little upstream capacity in North America or Europe.”

This is beginning to change. The Biden government recently used the Defense Production Act to help secure key battery materials. Automakers are beginning to venture upstream too. GM recently partnered with Posco in Quebec to build cathode materials. 

This disconnect between battery production capacity and critical materials could hit the automakers hardest as price volatility is passed downstream. “Large automakers are realising they need to vertically integrate their businesses into battery materials as well,” Tirumalasetty says.

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Benchmark has been tracking the build out of large scale (>1GWh) battery production facilities since 2015. We were initially tracking 8 plants in the pipeline, but this rapidly grew as electrification plans expanded.  

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