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IN THE NINGDE ERA

Inside CATL’s massive battery factory and the city that supports it

CATL
The CATL’s headquarters is so large that it makes up a suburb of the city of Ningde.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In 2017, only six years after it was founded, CATL became the world’s largest electric-vehicle battery supplier, beating out stalwarts like Panasonic, LG, and Samsung to get there.

As it grew to these levels, the company was building out its headquarters in the city of Ningde, in China’s southeastern province of Fujian. Ningde wasn’t chosen at random—it’s the hometown of CATL’s 51-year-old founder, Zeng Yuqun. And such was his love for the place, that CATL’s Chinese name 宁德时代, means literally “Ningde era.”

In 2018, when CATL listed on the the Shenzhen stock exchange, Yuqun and three others became billionaires. The company growth that led to that windfall is reflected in swelling of its host city, as well.

Between 1998 and 2018, the change in Ningde’s growth was clearly visible from space:

The company employs some 15,000 people and provides housing to many of them on the industry’s campus. To support employees’ lives outside of work, there are shops and even a kindergarten on site.

The company didn’t let our photographer inside the factory; the photographer was able to explore the company’s campus and even get a look at CATL’s expansion in the region. And CATL sent us a few of its own images of its factory interior.

Courtesy of CATL
Visitors to CATL’s headquarters are greeted with a lobby display showing off the company’s products.
Courtesy of CATL
CATL’s products on display in the main lobby.
Courtesy of CATL
Tens of thousands of small lithium-ion batteries like this one—about 20 cm in length—are made each day in CATL’s factories.
Courtesy of CATL
Robots do much of the work inside CATL’s battery-production plant.
Courtesy of CATL
Battery-production lines appear to extend into the horizon at the CATL factory in Ningde.
Courtesy of CATL
The main job of workers inside the factory is to watch over the machines.
Courtesy of CATL
While more and more battery-production equipment is made in China, some parts—like these robot arms from Germany—are still imported.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
Ningde city. CATL is situated north of the main part of the expanding city, out of sight.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
A sculpture titled ‘The Light of the Future’ in the landscaped park surrounding the CATL campus.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
The entrance to the CATL research, development, and headquarter buildings.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
Housing for CATL workers. These buildings are for factory workers. Administrators, engineers and other non-factory workers live in separate buildings on the campus.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
A kindergarten on the CATL campus, south of the main factory, for workers’ children.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
CATL worker housing and stores south of the main factory.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
CATL worker housing and stores south of the main factory. In the background are buildings for administrators, engineers and other non-factory workers.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
An expansion to the CATL campus close to its existing facilities.
Theodore Kaye for Quartz
Another view of construction on the CATL campus expansion.