According to the latest reporting by South Korean news media, SK On, a major South Korean supplier of EV power batteries, announced on May 2 of this year that it has entered into a joint development agreement with Westwater Resources. Under the agreement, they will work together for three years to develop anode materials. Westwater Resources is a graphite supplier in the US.
The ultimate aim of both parties is to develop environment-friendly and high-performance anode materials. If their collaboration lead to significant advances, SK On will consider making Westwater Resources its supplier for graphite-based anode materials.
It is also worth noting that earlier on January 18 of this year, SK On announced that it signed an agreement with Urbix to develop the anode materials used in its EV batteries. SK On also said the goal was to improve performance and environmental safety. Similar to Westwater Resources, Urbix is an American graphite processor.
The duration for the agreement with Urbix is two years, but it could be extended if both parties choose to do so. Again, if their partnership result in successes, SK On will consider procuring anode materials from Urbix for its battery plants in the US.
Turning to cathode materials, SK On and several partners including GEM have formed a joint venture for the manufacturing of high-nickel precursors in South Korea. The agreement for the joint venture was sealed in March of this year, and it will see an investment of KRW 1.21 trillion in a new plant for outputting a new generation of precursors for cathodes in EV power batteries. The planned production capacity of the precursor plant is set at 43,000 tons per year. The plant is expected to supply related products to the North American market. Based in China, GEM offers batteries, battery materials, and battery recycling.
On the subject of lithium salts, SK On’s subsidiary in Shanghai entered into an offtake agreement with a subsidiary of Yahua Industrial Group on November 1, 2022. Yahua is a Chinese supplier of chemical products and explosives. Under the agreement, Yahua’s subsidiary will provide SK On’s subsidiary with battery-grade lithium hydroxide from 2023 to 2025. The amount supplied to SK On’s subsidiary will gradually increase of the years, while the total amount for the three-year period is set within the range of 2-3 million tons.
As for the acquisition of lithium ores, SK On and Australia’s Lake Resources signed a supply framework agreement on October 12, 2022. According to the agreement, SK On will acquire a 10% stake in Lake Resources in exchange for battery-grade lithium. The delivery of lithium is set to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024 at the earliest. The term of the agreement is five years but can be extended further by another five years. SK On will be receiving 15,000 tons for the first two years and 25,000 tons every year starting from the third year.
Looking at battery production, SK On and South Korean automotive giant Hyundai made agreement in November 2022 to jointly set up a battery plant in the US. The total investment in this project was estimated at the time to reach KRW 2.5 trillion (or USD 1.88 billion or CNY 13.5 billion). The plant is set to have an initial production capacity of 20GWh per year and enter operation in the first quarter 2026. Lately, international news media have reported that the two parties have decided to land this plant in the Georgia. It will be near Hyundai’s new EV plant. With 20GWh per year, the proposed plant would be able to meet the demand from around 300,000 EVs.
Additionally, SK On disclosed on March 14, 2022 that it had signed a non-binding MoU with Ford and Koç Holding to establish a joint venture for manufacturing EV power batteries. Koç Holding is the largest conglomerate in Turkey. The joint venture’s plant is set to enter operation in 2025 and has a capacity target of 30-45GWh per year.
This article is a translation of a Chinese article posted by TrendForce. It contains information that is either sourced from other news outlets or accessible in the public domain. Some Chinese names are transcribed into English using Hanyu Pinyin.