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SK Innovation targets EV market

Battery maker plans to ramp up production to 100 gigawatt hours

May 28,2019
SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun speaks to reporters at a press conference on Monday in central Seoul. [SK INNOVATION]
SK Innovation plans to hugely expand annual electric vehicle (EV) battery production by 2025.

Currently the third largest EV battery supplier in Korea, SK has the capacity to produce up to 5 gigawatt hours of EV batteries a year. By 2025 it aims to increase that output twentyfold to hit 100 gigawatt hours.

SK currently also has an order backlog of 430 gigawatts. With ongoing tech development and an anticipated capacity increase for its foreign production facilities in China, the United States and Hungary, the company expects this backlog figure to stretch to 700 gigawatts by 2025.

“Our goal is to reach the top global three in the EV battery market by 2025 and I think we can make it,” said SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun at a press conference held Monday in central Seoul.

This was the first time in two years that Kim has stood in front of local reporters to share the company’s long-term business plans. Last time, the top refiner announced investments to boost new businesses. EV batteries was one of them.

Projects shared Monday included devising a business model to offer “batteries as a service,” like rentals, recharging or recycling used batteries, and preparations to start creating energy storage systems, which save energy at times of oversupply and consume it when supply is low. The technology is associated with green energy sources like wind or water, for which the supply is not always consistent.

While batteries in mobility at the moment are focused on cars, Kim said the company is looking for partners to expand battery adoption to planes, ships and industrial mobility one day.

Originally an oil refiner, 30 percent of SK’s assets are associated with its new businesses - batteries, materials and chemicals. The company aims to push this ratio up to 60 percent by 2025. Acknowledging its negative environmental effects as a petrochemical company, Kim announced that the “green initiative” will be one of SK’s three core values for which it plans to increase the share of eco-friendly products in its portfolio.

An ongoing issue at SK Innovation is a lawsuit being brought against SK by LG Chem, which claims SK stole its technology by recruiting former LG employees.

“We’re at a stage where the battery market is really starting grow,” said Kim. “So it’s important to boost [Korea’s] global presence. In that perspective [the situation] is regrettable.”

Another question raised during the conference regarded SK Innovation’s joint venture with Volkswagen to supply EV batteries for the carmaker and whether there was a chance of expertise being leaked.

“The core question for clients like Volkswagen is not the technology but whether it can safely secure the right components at the right time,” said Yoon Ye-sun, SK Innovation’s head for the battery business.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]


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