A handful of multinationals have dominated burgeoning foreign direct investment (FDI) in the electric vehicle (EV) value chain in the past six years, with US-based Tesla, Germany's BMW and Chinese battery maker CATL leading the pack, according to figures from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets.
Global investment into the electric vehicle supply chain has exploded in recent years as the auto industry transforms itself from one primarily based on combustion engines to battery-based mobility. This electrification rush is such a major driver of FDI and job creation that the most active companies and where they are planning to invest cannot be ignored.
In 2022, more than $106bn was pledged to EV-related projects globally, with most of this money going towards construction of new assembly plants and battery manufacturing facilities, according to fDi Markets. This announced capital expenditure was 162% higher than a year earlier and brought the total since 2016 to more than $250bn. This explosion has been driven in large part by automakers’ and their battery partners making use of government incentives to build out the EV supply chain. This is most notable in the US, where the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have allocated billions of dollars for this purpose.
Who are the top investors in the EV industry?
More than 70% of the total global investment pledged to EVs between 2016 and 2022 was made up by just 20 companies. They include a mix of legacy automakers, battery manufacturers, electronics conglomerates and new start-ups focused purely on EVs. While many investments are going ahead as planned, several EV start-ups have overpromised and been underdelivered on their gigafactory projects, including Italvolt and Britishvolt.
Tesla, the world’s largest EV manufacturer by market capitalisation, was also the leading global investor. The Austin, Texas-based automaker has pledged $18.6bn to EV projects outside the US since 2016. Last year, this included its plans to invest more than $5bn to open a new plant in Monterrey, a city in northern Mexico.
German carmaker BMW has been the second-largest investor into EV projects outside its home country since 2016. About a third of BMW’s $15.4bn worth of EV projects were announced last year. In October, the company said it would invest Rmb10bn ($1.38bn) to expand its high-voltage battery production plant in Shenyang, China.
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The third-most active investor has been CATL, the largest lithium-ion battery maker for EVs in the world. The Ningde, China-based manufacturer has pledged $15bn to overseas greenfield projects since 2016. In August 2022, CATL said it would invest $7.48bn to build a 100 gigawatt-hour battery plant in Debrecen, Hungary.
CATL is one of several East Asian companies that are world leaders in the automotive and battery industries. Half of the top 20 foreign investors into the EV supply chain are from China, South Korea and Japan, while Europe has just five companies featured. South Korean automaker Hyundai was the fourth-most active investor, having pledged more than $11.6bn to EV projects in 2022, including a $5.5bn investment into the US state of Georgia.
Europe’s largest automaker, Volkswagen, has been the fifth-largest EV supply chain investor since 2016. This included a commitment to invest £2.5bn ($3.28bn) to create a new facility for battery-powered vehicles for its luxury brand Bentley Motors in Crewe, UK.
Where are EV companies investing?
The EV industry is inherently global. Supply chains for the raw materials and components used in EVs are spread across the globe. In fact, fDi Markets has tracked cross-border EV-related investments in 74 countries since 2016. While virtually every government is attempting to lure foreign companies to set up factories to produce batteries and assemble vehicles in their jurisdiction, some have been far more successful than others.
In 2022, the US attracted $42bn worth of foreign EV investment, almost five times as much as second-placed Hungary ($9.9bn), according to fDi Markets. It was followed by Mexico ($8.5bn), Indonesia ($8bn) and Germany ($7bn).
Meanwhile China, the world’s largest automotive market by new car registrations, has seen foreign investment in its EV industry fall in recent years. In 2022, about $2.8bn of FDI was tracked in its EV industry. This was down from $16.2bn in 2018, when China was by far the world’s largest destination for foreign EV investments.