Enabling a successful EV transition through innovation and sustainability: Robin Zeng


As an essential part of decarbonizing the automotive ecosystem, EV transition requires technological innovation, a sustainable and responsible supply chain and the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, said Dr. Robin Zeng, chairman and general manager of CATL at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos, Switzerland. 

During the session “Rolling out EVs: A Marathon or a Sprint?” held on Jan 18, Dr. Zeng said innovation in battery technology is central to helping the world transition towards a clean energy future. CATL remains focused on providing long range electric driving options for consumers, and is continuously innovating to achieve greater results. “We launched the condensed battery with an energy density of 500 Wh/kg, a 70 or 80 percent increase over current NCM batteries. We are focused on the aviation applications for condensed batteries, and as production scales up, we can reduce the cost and use the battery in cars, too.” 

Battery technology breakthroughs enable business model innovation and therefore a sustainable EV transition with multiple applications. In the V2G (Vehicle to Grid) scenario, an EV battery can also be a distributed mobile energy storage unit, enabling EV owners to make a profit by charging during off-peak hours and selling electricity to the power grid during peak hours. “You do not need to drive your car and the car will make money for you. But it requires longer cycle life for the batteries. To meet this demand, we have developed battery technology for a cycle life of 18,000 cycles,” said Dr. Zeng. 

A sustainable supply chain is also essential for a successful transition to e-mobility. In April 2023, CATL announced a plan to achieve carbon neutrality in all its battery manufacturing facilities by 2025 and across its battery supply chain by 2035. Dr. Zeng mentioned the difficulty of achieving this goal and emphasized the role of renewable energy in the supply chain. “That’s why when we are selecting suppliers, we are always asking them ‘where are you located’ and ‘do you have green energy’ etc.,’’ said Dr. Zeng at the panel. 

The integrity of the supply chain is critical for a just EV transition. Dr. Zeng said that through the battery passport program, which was unveiled by the Global Battery Alliance during last year’s meeting in Davos, people can trace the data of a battery’s whole lifecycle by simply scanning a QR code. A battery passport is a transparent enabler across the supply chain that can effectively facilitate battery recycling management, cross-border trade and battery circularity, further promoting global EV transition. 

EV transition will require efforts from all parts of society, from government leaders to businesses to NGOs and even consumers themselves, according to Dr. Zeng. “For example, the governments should support battery recycling by allowing qualified technology companies rather than small workshops to refurbish and recycle batteries.”