SK ie technology plans $1 billion EU investment as EV sales boom

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SK ie technology plans $1 billion EU investment as EV sales boom

SK ie technology's first Polish facility under construction [SK IE TECHNOLOGY]

SK ie technology's first Polish facility under construction [SK IE TECHNOLOGY]

SK ie technology, an SK Innovation subsidiary that makes battery separators, said Sunday it will invest 1.13 trillion won ($1 billion) to expand its European facilities in response to growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
 
It is the biggest single investment by SK ie technology to date.
 
The company, 90 percent owned by SK Innovation and 10 percent by Korea's Premier Partners, said it will build its third and fourth European factories in Silesia, Poland to make lithium-ion battery separators (LiBS).
 
The third and fourth facilities will each manufacture 430 million square meters of LiBS per year. They are scheduled to break ground in the third quarter and go into operation in the fourth quarter of 2023 at the earliest.  
 
Its first and second European facilities, also located in Silesia, Poland, are currently under construction, with the first one scheduled to operate by the third quarter of 2021 and the second by the first quarter of 2023. Each factory will make 340 million square meter of product a year.  
 
LiBS are one of four core components of lithium-ion batteries, along with anodes, cathodes and electrolytes. They account for 15 to 20 percent of the manufacturing cost of lithium-ion batteries. LiBS quality emerged as an important factor in gauging the safety of an EV battery as they have oftentimes been suspected as a cause of some EV fires including those involving Hyundai Motor's Kona Electric, although no direct relation has been confirmed.  
 
As EV demand grows and battery quality become increasingly important, SK Innovation has been making hefty investments in the components. According to the company, the size of the LiBS market, which came to 4 billion square meters in 2020, is expected to grow to 16 billion square meters by 2025.
 
The company is currently able to manufacture 860 million square meters of LiBS at its factories in Jeungpyung, North Chungcheong and Changzhou, China, with the four European facilities and two more Chinese facilities on the way.  
 
SK ie technology's annual LiBS production will total 2.73 billion square meters by 2024.  
 
"SK ie technology hopes contribute to the growth of the EV market by making safe separators and wipe out fire risk anxiety over EVs," said Roh Jae-sok, CEO of SK ie technology, in a statement Sunday.  
 
SK ie technology plans to go public in Korea in the first half. Its market value was estimated at 5 trillion won at the end of last year, but its value is volatile as SK Innovation and LG Energy Solution continue to do battle in a trade-secret dispute.  
 
The U.S. International Trade Commission in February ruled in favor of LG Energy Solution, effectively banning SK Innovation's U.S. battery business for the next 10 years. If U.S. President Joe Biden doesn't exercise his veto by April 11, SK Innovation's U.S. business could be shut down, influencing SK ie technology's sales as well.  
 
BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]
 
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