The headquarters of the battery giant is in China. The building looks like a big slide out of the urban sprawl. The company's raison d'tre is the battery pack.

You have definitely heard of the brands that use the batteries from CATL. More than 30% of the world's EV batteries are supplied by the company. The industry's kingmaker is 54-year-old Zeng Yuqun, also know as Robin Zeng. Zeng is described as savvy, direct, and abrasive. His leadership has resulted in the valuation of the company ballooning to more than $170 billion, making it the most valuable company in the world. Part of that fortune is built on owning stakes in mining projects in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia, giving the company a tighter grip on the global battery supply chain.

The company can be picky with its contracts and push the rising prices of raw materials onto its clients if it has such a large influence. Mark Greeven is the professor of innovation and strategy at IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland. He says that CATL isn't willing to modify its batteries for different car brands.

These decisions have made Zeng very rich. He is one of the world's wealthiest people. He is second on the list of the world's top green billionaires. Musk might make more news, but Zeng is still in charge.

Zeng is not a person like Musk. He doesn't give interviews and avoids the spotlight. Zeng's business could be hampered by his notoriety, according to Insiders. The personality-cult style of leadership is appreciated and celebrated in the west. The former head of Chrysler's northeast Asia business in Beijing believes it's dangerous in China. It's not possible to be bigger than Beijing. As they look for batteries to power their vehicles, carmakers are becoming more cautious about how much power CATL has.

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The introduction of Zeng to the EV battery scene can be traced back to 2010 when he met Herbert Diess, the purchasing manager for BMW. The CEO of Volkswagen had embarked on an international mission to convince companies to make electric cars. Europe's Bosch was one of the companies he tried. He approached Zeng, who was the CEO of a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics company. The story was told in an internal meeting in May 2022. Zeng said it was impossible for him to build such large batteries.

The story goes that Diess asked for batteries to be stuck. A group of Chinese investors led by Zeng acquired an 85% stake in the EV battery business. It was the first key account. Zeng said that Diess brought their company into the car battery business. I'm thankful for that.

Over the years, Zeng earned a reputation as a founder who could master batteries as well as business, so it's no surprise that he inspired CATL's entry into the EV market. According to the former editor of Beijing-based media outlet China Auto Review, he worked to improve the battery design himself after buying a US patent for it. According to a research associate at IMD Business School, Zeng was the one who read the 800 pages of requirements line by line when BMW chose CATL as its battery supplier.