Measured in energy, it sold as many batteries as Tesla made at its famous gigafactory, the JSE-listed Metair said on Thursday.
Even if its manufacturing is not centralised in one huge factory but scattered around the world – where the customers are.
Metair wants to be a “multiple-site giga factory” as it scrambles to keep up with electric cars, which hold a lot of changes for part manufacturers.
His company’s sale of batteries last year “were on par with Tesla’s Gigafactory automotive output” Metair CEO Theo Loock said in an annual report for the company released on Thursday.
Even if the way parts company Metair approaches mass-manufacturing is rather different to the way electric car company Tesla goes about things.
“Metair cannot be a single site Giga factory as our customer base is in multiple locations and the watt-hours we sell are required by vehicle manufacturers and vehicle owners in different countries and diverse geographical locations,” Loock said. “Our strategy is to continue to become a multiple site gigafactory.”
Tesla is famously building a single, gigantic factory to make the batteries for its electric vehicles, which now include trucks.
At its final capacity the Tesla factory is due to produce 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) worth of lithium-ion batteries every year, or about as much as made in the entire world at the moment. But it is still ramping up to that number.
In 2017 the Metair energy business had a capacity of 11.5GWh, and sold 10.42GWh in batteries, Loock said.
Metair started life as a supplier to Toyota more than 70 years ago, and car parts are still a huge part of its business. However, for the 2017 year it reported R6.2 billion in revenue from its energy storage business, which was nearly 60% of its group revenues, and batteries were also responsible for most of its profits.
It started using lithium-ion batteries for the lamps on mining helmets in South Africa in 2013. It now has relationships with universities in the Western Cape and Romania to look into battery technology, and in 2017 converted a car from internal combustion to battery power as part efforts to explore electric vehicles.
By Phillip de Wet, 15 March 2018