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SK On Pushes Smart Battery Manufacturing Forward
Ford's partner in EV battery making has had a wild year: Let's review.
January 2, 2024
4 Min Read
BlueOval SK battery plant in Kentucky.Courtesy of BlueOval SK
Recently, a six-party Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed at the SK Green Campus in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The MOU includes prominent entities such as Beckhoff Automation, Cisco, IFM Electronic, Yaskawa Electric Korea, and Woowon Technology. The primary goal of this collaboration is to utilize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to optimize equipment efficiency and boost productivity.
This MOU marks one of the numerous accomplishments of the Korean conglomerate SK Group in the past year, whose subsidiaries include electric vehicle (EV) battery maker SK Innovation and its related entities, indicating a company on the right track in an increasingly competitive market.
SK subsidiary SK On became the first global battery manufacturer to win an Edison award. In April, the company’s NCM9 battery earned the bronze award in EV battery enhancement in the Smart Transportation category of Edison Awards 2023. The NCM9 “is the world’s first commercialized NCM (nickel/manganese/cobalt) battery with a nickel content of nearly 90 percent,” the company noted. The batteries have been installed on Ford’s first EV pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning.
In June, the SK Group was named to TIME’s third-annual list of 100 most influential companies for its role in growing EV battery manufacturing in the US. “South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate is making big bets on American-made EV batteries,” the magazine noted. “In April, SK announced plans with Hyundai for a $5 billion plant in Georgia. A joint venture with Ford now underway involves two massive battery facilities together worth $11.4 billion, including one in Kentucky that will be the country’s largest.”
Lastly, in September, SK On was named to Fortune’s 2023 “Change the World” list for supporting America’s move to more practical and affordable EVs as part of a group of companies called “America’s electrifiers.”
Plenty of projects
As of Oct. 3, SK On noted that it has six EV battery plants operating or being constructed in the US by 2026. Across all plants, SK On and its partners expect to produce more than 180 gigawatt hours annually — enough battery cells to power about 1.5M new EVs a year.
SK Battery America: A US subsidiary of SK On is running two EV battery plants in Commerce, Georgia.
BlueOval SK: Joint venture between Ford and SK On to manufacture batteries in Glendale, Kentucky, and Stanton, Tennessee, for Ford and Lincoln EVs. The project is a key part of Ford’s plan to deliver 2 million EVs a year globally by late 2026, SK On said in a press release.
SK On / Hyundai Motor Group: Plan a joint venture in April in Bartow County, Georgia, for Hyundai and Kia EVs.
During a March visit to the 1,500-acre BlueOval SK Battery Park in Kentucky, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg noted that “when it opens, this will be one of the world's largest EV battery manufacturing facilities. Workers here aren’t just building a factory, they’re building livelihoods — and they’re building the future.”
Added BlueOval SK CEO Dr. Robert Rhee, “BlueOval SK is excited about bringing thousands of good-paying jobs to Kentucky and we look forward to expanding our partnerships within the local community.”
Meanwhile, to boost the raw material supply chain for batteries in North America, SK On signed a joint agreement with U.S. graphite company Westwater Resources in May. The two companies will develop environmentally responsible, high-performance anode materials tailored for SK On batteries.
“SK On has been pursuing strategic partnerships to secure high-quality battery raw materials to support our growing U.S. manufacturing base,” stated Sun Heeyoung, SK On vice president in charge of advanced research. “With this agreement, we will continue to look for options that can strengthen our materials supply chain in North America and ensure we can help meet the increasing demand for electric vehicles in the U.S.”
On Nov. 15, SK On and BASF announced an agreement to jointly evaluate collaboration opportunities in the global lithium battery market, focusing on North America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Commitment to green energy
Underscoring SK Innovation’s aims to become “a green energy and materials company,” representatives of the company took part in Green Business Week 2023 in Seoul from Nov. 22-24. The SK Group organized its exhibition hall into four groups: EV batteries, waste recycling, clean mobility, and clean energy.
“The history of SK batteries can be seen in the EV Battery zone,” the company noted, including SK On’s Prismatic Battery, SF Battery (Super Fast Battery), Cobalt Free Battery (Co-Free Battery), and All-solid-state Battery.
SK On’s SF Battery, which won the ‘Best Innovation Award’ at CES 2023. Courtesy of SK On.
The SF Battery was shown to charge up to 80% in 18 minutes at CES 2023 in January — earning SK yet another accolade for the year: a CES Best of Innovation award in the Embedded Technologies and Vehicle Tech and Advanced Mobility categories.
“It is a pleasure to win the CES Best Innovation Award for the first time in the industry,” stated an SK On spokesperson, “but now we feel more burdened having to develop a battery with a better performance. We will strive to keep up with the global expectation towards K-Battery through constant innovation.”
About the Author(s)
Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the manufacturing, medical, and plastics industries. A top-shelf content creator, versatile large-market journalist, and tireless communications strategist, Geoff notes that after running a daily news operation, everything else is a piece of cake. Contact him at [email protected].
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