SK On and Ford to build cathode plant in North America to bolster battery cooperation

By Lim Chang-won Posted : July 22, 2022, 18:14 Updated : July 22, 2022, 18:14

[Courtesy of SK Innovation]

SEOUL -- Through joint investment, SK On, a major battery maker in South Korea, and its American partner, Ford, will build a cathode plant in an undecided location in North America to secure a stable supply of core materials for electric vehicle batteries. 

SK On said it has signed a letter of intent with Ford and EcoPro BM, a leading producer of core materials for batteries in South Korea, for joint investment in the production of a cathode plant. Construction is to begin in the second half of 2023They have yet to complete discussions on terms such as location, the amount of investment, and equity ratio.

Cathode materials to be produced by the plant will be shipped to a Ford-SK On battery joint venture called "BlueOval SK." "We will lead the global electric vehicle market by strengthening the supply chain of key materials to produce more competitive batteries," Kim Yong-ji in charge of SK On's material purchasing, said in a statement on July 22. 

EcoPro BM has provided high-nickel cathode materials to SK On. 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. Nickel is cheaper than cobalt, which is an expensive rare-earth element widely used in lithium-ion batteries and is vulnerable to sudden price fluctuations.

SK Innovation (SKI), the mother company of SK On, has developed NCM9 batteries that contain 90 percent nickel to power Ford's F-150 Lightning. The South Korean company aims to expand its battery production capacity at plants in South Korea, China, Hungary and the United States from 40GWh per year to 500GWh by 2030s.

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