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SK Innovation mulls developing new cylindrical and prismatic battery cells

Samsung SDI prepares US expansion “step by step” as LG Energy Solution and Hyundai Motor start joint venture in Indonesia

SK Innovation had a booth at the Inter Battery trade show this week, seen at Coex in Seoul on Wednesday. (SK Innovation)
SK Innovation had a booth at the Inter Battery trade show this week, seen at Coex in Seoul on Wednesday. (SK Innovation)


SK Innovation said Wednesday that it was considering producing new kinds of electric vehicle batteries, including cylindrical and prismatic battery cells, to expand its customer base.

At South Korea’s biggest battery expo, Inter Battery, held at Coex in Seoul this week, SK Innovation battery chief Jee Dong-seob confirmed that the company was preparing to diversify its product portfolio, which currently consists only of pouch-type cells.

“We are reviewing the development of cylindrical and prismatic battery cells,” Jee said.

In April, SK Innovation signed an agreement with Hyundai Motor and Kia to co-develop the new pouch-type battery cells optimized for hybrid electric vehicles, but this is the first time the company has acknowledged plans to develop batteries with completely different form factors.

Wednesday’s event drew officials from the country’s battery ecosystem, as well as Industry Minister Moon Sung-wook.

A senior executive of Samsung SDI, another major Korean battery maker, hinted that preparations were already underway for a US foray. The firm is the only one of Korea’s three battery players that doesn’t have a battery cell production base in the US.

“The US expansion is under review. Preparations have to be made step by step,” said Song Ho-jun, senior vice president and head of planning at Samsung SDI.

The timing of Samsung SDI’s entry to the US will hinge on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Under the trade agreement, which took effect last July, automakers will have to certify by 2025 that 75 percent of their electric vehicle components are made in one of the three countries to avoid tariffs in the region. Batteries typically account for more than 40 percent of the total cost of EV parts.

Considering that a battery cell factory takes two to three years to complete, Samsung SDI would have to make its foray into the US next year at the latest, should it decide to do so at all.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking official from LG Energy Solution said an announcement was imminent that the company was forming a battery joint venture with Hyundai Motor in Indonesia.

“It will be done soon. It’s a question of the timing,” the official said.

According to multiple media reports, LG Energy Solution and Hyundai Motor are expected to build battery manufacturing facilities at a cost of $1.2 billion with a capacity for 10 gigawatt-hours in Bekasi, a city on the eastern border of the capital, Jakarta, which would be enough for 130,000 EVs with 80-kilowatt-hour batteries.

Indonesia’s Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia disclosed the partnership between the two companies last month, saying that groundbreaking for the new facilities would take place “in the near future,” without specifying an exact time frame.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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