EV battery makers turn to European markets

Korean electric vehicle (EV) battery makers are pushing to set up manufacturing bases in Europe, aiming at beefing up their footing in the rapidly growing market there.

LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation are all preparing to build EV battery plants in Europe. To meet strong environmental policies, Europe’s carmakers are trying to shore up their portfolio of eco-friendly cars including EVs over conventional automobiles with internal combustion engines.

The Korean battery makers’ move to diversify their market bases has coincided with the Chinese government’s blatant protectionism policies for the country’s local battery manufacturers, observers pointed out Sunday.

LG Chem has been building an EV battery plant in Wrocław, Poland, beginning in October last year. The company, which supplies its products to European automobile brands such as Renault, Audi and Volvo, plans to spend about 400 billion won in constructing the factory.

Once completed, the plant will produce every part of the EV battery including cells, modules and packs. Its annual capacity is estimated to be enough for 100,000 EVs.

“Our Wroclaw facility will be the largest EV battery plant in Europe,” an LG Chem official said.

The factory is expected to be completed by the end of 2018, though LG Chem may start operating part of it at the end of this year.

Samsung SDI finished the transformation of its former plasma display panel plant in Goed, Hungary, into a battery factory, May 29. The renovated plant is scheduled to start operating in the second quarter of next year. BMW and Volkswagen are among Samsung SDI’s clients.

According to Samsung, the plant is capable of producing batteries for 50,000 EVs a year. The company said the plant will help it save logistics costs and improve customer service in Europe.

“Batteries are one of the most important parts supplied to global carmakers. I expect the plant to contribute much to the growth of the European EV market,” Samsung SDI President Jun Young-hyun said.

Last week, SK Innovation said it will start building a battery plant in Europe this year. Considering either Hungary or Czech Republic for a site, the firm wants to operate the new plant from next year.

The announcement came after SK Innovation signed a supply deal with Daimler Group in February to provide lithium-ion battery cells for new Mercedes-Benz EVs.

“We need to strengthen our capacity and secure more deals from carmakers,” SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun said. “We expect to capture about 10 percent of the global market by 2020 and increase it to 30 percent by 2025.”

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