The world’s biggest electric-vehicle battery maker has hit back against accusations that it poses a national security threat after the Chinese company’s technology was cut off from a US military base.
“Accusations about CATL batteries posing espionage threats are false and misleading,” said the company in a statement on Thursday. “Our products have passed rigorous safety and security reviews including those by US authorities and businesses.”
The battery maker’s statement follows an open letter on Friday from Republican senator Marco Rubio and other lawmakers to US defence secretary Lloyd Austin, which alleged CATL was close to the Chinese leadership and that its presence on a US military base in North Carolina was “inexcusable”.
“The CCP’s pattern of espionage leaves little room for doubt that CATL products pose a threat to national security at any base where they are installed,” said the letter.
Duke Energy, a US utility company, said on Wednesday it had disconnected CATL batteries on the military base, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, as a result of the concerns.
CATL, one of the groups behind China’s rapid shift towards EVs and renewable technology, is the latest company hit by rising geopolitical tensions between the US and China, which has cast a chill over business relations on both sides of the Pacific.
In July, CATL reported total revenue of Rmb189bn ($26.6bn) for the first half of 2023, posting year-on-year growth of 67.5 per cent. EV batteries accounted for more than 70 per cent of the total amount.
But sales of storage batteries are rapidly increasing, said the company, without disclosing a number.
The company denied the accusations, adding that the energy storage products it sells to the US are “not equipped with communication interfaces that may enable CATL to control the sold products”.
CATL said it has a large western investor base, including companies such as JPMorgan Chase and UBS. A representative of CATL also said “we respect the actions of our end customers”.
In its statement, Duke Energy said the CATL batteries it used “were not connected in any way to Camp Lejeune’s network or other systems” and that they acted “solely as an energy storage device and were connected to Duke Energy’s system with our robust network security and safeguards fully in place”.
It added: “As an American energy company, we welcome the ability to use American manufactured batteries. Given the rapidly increasing demand for electricity, we support more domestic manufacturing to help expand energy resources in the United States and accelerate the energy transition”.
Duke Energy expanded its battery storage capabilities in North Carolina in late March and has begun commercial operation of the state’s largest battery system, according to a previous statement from the company.