EcoPro BM secures $8.5 bln deal to supply cathode material for SK Innovation's high-nickel batteries

By Lim Chang-won Posted : September 9, 2021, 10:31 Updated : August 18, 2023, 17:35

[Courtesy of SK Innovation]

SEOUL -- EcoPro BM, a leading producer of core materials for secondary batteries in South Korea, secured a three-year deal worth some 10 trillion won ($8.5 billion) to supply key materials for SK Innovation's high-nickel batteries. The two companies agreed to strengthen their partnership through joint investment in material business and cooperation in recycling waste batteries.

EcoPro BM said in a regulatory filing on September 9 that it would provide high-nickel NCM cathode materials to SK Innovation for three years from 2024. Battery makers have tried to produce efficient batteries, such as NCM that contains nickel, cobalt and manganese. The proportion of nickel is high so that battery producers can save costs and extend the driving range. An upgraded model called NCMA increases stability by adding aluminum.

SK Innovation (SKI), a battery-making subsidiary of SK Group, has stepped up efforts to expand the production of batteries through facilities in China, Hungary and the United States. SKI's joint venture plant in China produces NCM 811 that allows electric vehicles to drive up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a single charge. 

"We will strengthen cooperation with EcoPro Group, a solid partner, to achieve the goal of becoming a top global company by enhancing business competitiveness from high-quality battery manufacturing to core materials," SKI's battery business chief Ji Dong-sup said in a statement.

Cobalt, an expensive rare-earth element widely used in lithium-ion batteries, is vulnerable to sudden price fluctuations. Nickel is cheaper than cobalt. SKI will supply NCM9 batteries to U.S. automaker Ford's flagship electric truck model to be released in 2022. The density of nickel in the NCM9 battery is about 90 percent. SKI has developed its NCM9 battery through cooperation with EcoPro.

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