SEOUL -- SK Innovation became the second South Korean company to make a strategic alteration in business policy and tap the market for electric vehicle batteries based on lithium iron phosphate that has been dominated by Chinese companies. The change came after foreign carmakers such as Tesla and Volkswagen disclosed intentions to adopt batteries for diffusion models.
South Korean battery makers have tried to produce efficient and high-end 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. Cobalt, an expensive rare-earth element widely used in lithium-ion batteries, is vulnerable to sudden price fluctuations. Nickel is cheaper than cobalt.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies have focused on lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries that use lithium iron phosphate as cathode material and a graphitic carbon electrode with a metallic backing as the anode. Cobalt-free LFP batteries offer low cost, low toxicity and long-term stability. The main drawback is lower energy density than that of lithium cobalt oxide.
At a conference call on October 29, SK Innovation (SKI), the parent company of SK On, a major secondary battery maker in South Korea, said it would seek the development of LFP batteries that have excellent energy density and can charge at high speed. The company thinks the energy density of LFP batteries is still low, casting doubt over their ability to meet various needs.
"SK Innovation is developing products of various configurations according to technology trends and customer demands," said Yoon Hyung-jo, head of SKI's battery business planning department. "We are currently conducting research and development with the aim of mass-producing LFP batteries that have excellent energy density and can charge at high speed."
LG Energy Solution (LGES) was the first to consider commercializing LPF batteries. At a conference call on October 25. LG Chem, the parent company of LGES, said it is developing a cobalt-free, low-cost material that can overcome the shortcomings of LFP batteries which have been adopted in low-end models for emerging markets.
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