Mercedes, CATL battery plant investment faces local backlash in Hungary

Hungarian protesters disrupted events in the city where Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology and Mercedes-Benz are planning a €7.3 billion ($7.9 billion) factory, It showed growing opposition to the single largest investment.

Residents turned to officials at a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Debrecen, home to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party and host of the planned factory, according to a video published on the Telex news website on Friday. and shouted, “You’re a traitor!”

Protesters said authorities had not taken into account potential environmental risks.

Similar local protests are taking place at sites across Hungary where battery makers such as Samsung SDI and SK Innovation are planning to build new factories or expand existing ones.

Many of the new factories that use a lot of resources such as electricity and water are located on good agricultural land.

Hungary, a hub for automakers from Mercedes to Suzuki, has aggressively sued battery makers to stay at the forefront of the transition to electric vehicles.

The government says investments in battery factories will boost economic growth in the coming years and create tens of thousands of jobs.

Mercedes announced in August that it would join CATL in building a Debrecen plant with an output capacity of 100 gigawatt hours, enough to power more than one million vehicles.

The facility is close to customers of BMW, Stellantis and the Volkswagen Group, CATL said.

Over the past six years, Hungary has won more than €14 billion in contracts and 20,000 new jobs from battery manufacturers, according to data from the Hungarian Investment Authority.

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