proprietary technology

2 charged with stealing battery manufacturing secrets from Texas-based EV giant

The technology allegedly stolen involves high-speed battery assembly lines that use a proprietary technology owned by Tesla. Photo courtesy of Tesla

Two men are accused of starting a business in China using battery manufacturing technology pilfered from Tesla and trying to sell the proprietary information, federal prosecutors in New York said Tuesday.

Klaus Pflugbeil, 58, a Canadian citizen who lives in Ningbo, China, was arrested Tuesday morning on Long Island, where he thought he was going to meet with businessmen to negotiate a sale price for the information, federal authorities said. Instead, the businessmen were undercover federal agents.

The other man named in the criminal complaint is Yilong Shao, 47, also of Ningbo. He remains at large. They are charged with conspiracy to transmit trade secrets, which carries up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A lawyer for Pflugbeil did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment Tuesday night. Tesla also did not immediately return an email message.

The technology at issue involves high-speed battery assembly lines that use a proprietary technology owned by Tesla, maker of electric vehicles.

The two men worked at a Canadian company that developed the technology and was bought in 2019 by “a U.S.-based leading manufacturer of battery-powered electric vehicles and battery energy systems,” authorities said in the complaint. Tesla then was sole owner of the technology.

Prosecutors did not name either company. But in 2019, Tesla purchased Hibar Systems, a battery manufacturing company in Richmond Hill, Ontario. The deal was first reported by Electric Autonomy Canada.

"The defendants set up a company in China, blatantly stole trade secrets from an American company that are important to manufacturing electric vehicles, and which cost many millions of dollars in research and development, and sold products developed with the stolen trade secrets,” Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement with officials with the Justice Department and FBI.

In mid-2020, Pflugbeil and Shao opened their business in China and expanded it to locations in Canada, Germany and Brazil, prosecutors said. The business makes the same battery assembly lines that Tesla uses with its proprietary information, and it markets itself as an alternative source for the assembly lines, authorities said.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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