Qilai Shen—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Making transportation more sustainable will require a collective, global effort, though Zeng Yuqun—otherwise known as Robin Zeng—will play a more significant role in decarbonization than most. Zeng is the founder of Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), the world’s top provider of electric-vehicle batteries with 37% of the global market, supplying automakers including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Ford. The $142 billion firm, headquartered in Zeng’s hometown of Ningde in China’s southern Fujian province, boasts 13 production plants globally and saw revenue almost double year over year to $4.4 billion in 2022. While environmentalists have raised concerns over CATL’s ballooning mining interests, Zeng’s track record of reducing the cost of established technology while pioneering the next breakthrough—such as sodium-based alternatives to the battery staple lithium—is helping to power the global push for EVs, propelling his personal wealth to some $32.2 billion. Zeng has said, “Innovation is in the genes of CATL.”

Campbell is a TIME correspondent

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Charlie Campbell at charlie.campbell@time.com.

Olena Zelenska
Lionel Messi
Aubrey Plaza
Michael B. Jordan
Colleen Hoover
5 stories