The construction of Europe's largest factory for manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles near the city of Debrecen in eastern Hungary is a significant undertaking. This endeavor, spearheaded by China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., stands as a prominent symbol of Hungary's commitment to thriving in Europe's green transition. Notably, Hungary ranks at the forefront globally in terms of per capita battery production acceleration.
However, beyond the economic benefits, concerns have been raised by environmental activists, community leaders, and political opponents regarding the potential costs associated with this ambitious plan. Critics argue that the government, which exercises control over various aspects of Hungarian society, including the courts, regulators, and media, has overlooked these concerns in its pursuit of securing its future rule.
The partnership between CATL and Mercedes-Benz AG in constructing a $7.8 billion facility is hailed as Hungary's most significant foreign direct investment to date. Two other battery suppliers are also building their own plants adjacent to the site, while another Chinese firm, EVE Energy Co. Ltd., is establishing its facility next to BMW AG's newly constructed factory.
Multiple concerns have emerged in relation to these developments. These include the potential loss of valuable agricultural land, strain on water and energy resources, and questions surrounding the proper disposal of used batteries. Additionally, there is apprehension regarding the possibility of accidents in factories dealing with hazardous materials such as lithium.
Town hall meetings concerning these battery-related investments have often devolved into heated arguments, even in areas traditionally aligned with Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party.