Sebang Global Battery may soon emerge as stiff competition for conglomerates like Samsung and LG in the field of lithium ion batteries, which are among the most popular forms of rechargeable batteries in the market.
But before explaining why, some facts about the battery manufacturer: Sebang Global Battery is the world’s fifth-largest maker of lead acid batteries, and is a part of Sebang Group that encompasses Sebang Co. founded in 1965 as a logistics enterprise.
More recently, Sebang has begun to make a name for itself as a world-class manufacturer of AGM batteries, a key component in “stop-start systems” for cutting the engine when the car stops to enhance fuel efficiency.
|Lee Sang-woong, new chairman of Sebang Group. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
“We could be the next Samsung in this field. If you remember, Samsung may have lagged in analogue technology, but look where it is in the digital territory,” said Lee Sang-woong, who took over as chairman as of Thursday. He had trained for almost 30 years to take over from his father who founded Sebang.
As the new chief, he hinted at his ambitions to overcome Sebang’s biggest AGM battery rival, Johnson Controls of the U.S.
The Korean firm is currently in talks with top carmakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz for supply deals to add to its list of clients that includes Volkswagen.
As for lithium ion batteries, Sebang is now planning to develop and produce its own version for powering energy storage systems, or ESS, to compete against existing players such as Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Toshiba. Its main challenge is to be as compact and affordable as possible without compromising quality. A prototype is already out, and Lee expects commercialization to happen as early as 2015.
Based on this diversifying product range ― Sebang had initially focused only on lead acid batteries ― the newly minted chairman hopes for Sebang to take the lead in the global battery market over the next decade or so.
“We believe we’ll have the upper hand in the compact battery segment for ESS as these systems become a mainstream way of life over the next five years,” Lee said.
ESS indicates the system of storing energy in advance to be used during peak hours or some other time in the future. These and other energy management systems are being introduced as electricity supply is increasingly unable to meet the demand.
Lee was also skeptical of the fuss over offering lithium batteries for electric cars, as he felt the era of electric or hybrid vehicles had yet to come for at least another decade.
“Our experts in Europe, where the top carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Audi are, all shake their head at the speculation on electric cars going mainstream,” the chairman said.
The success Sebang has seen thus far was possible mainly thanks to the firm’s unwavering concentration on key core competence.
“Our focus has always been on logistics and batteries, and this won’t change for a very long time because we feel there’s still so much more we can do in these industries, and so many more investments to make,” the chairman said.
To help further step up technology prowess, Sebang plans to invest in a second R&D center nearer to Seoul, as its existing institute is currently located in Gwangju.
In 2012, sales from the group’s 13 affiliates reached a combined 1.6 trillion won ($1.5 billion).
In his inauguration speech, Lee stressed that he and the firm would continue to focus on core competence ― to do what it does best to ensure a business capable of sustainable growth.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org