Asia Minute: South Korea’s Push for Electric Vehicle Batteries

Dec 6, 2019

General Motors and a South Korean company are putting up more than a billion dollars apiece to build a battery factory in Ohio. The plant is a key part of GM’s electric vehicle strategy — and it underlines the presence of South Korean companies in this growing market.

LG Chem is South Korea’s largest chemical company, but that’s not where it sees its biggest growth potential.

That would be in the area of batteries.

It’s already a huge supplier of lithium-ion batteries, and a growing part of its business is with electric vehicles. It’s had a working relationship with General Motors for more than a decade — it was an LG Chem battery that was part of the first-generation Chevy Volt.

One product expected in the near future: an electric powered pickup truck built by General Motors with an LG Chem battery — with a target date of 2021.

The South Korean company has also worked with German automakers Audi and Mercedes Benz — and has plants in South Korea, Poland and China.

China is the location of the newest factory for one of LG Chem’s domestic rivals — SK Innovation.

That company just opened a joint venture operation this week with a state-owned Chinese auto firm and one of its suppliers.

The Chinese plant is SK Innovation’s first overseas venture, but two more are underway — both aimed at the electric vehicle market.

One factory is being built in eastern Europe, in Hungary, while the other is under construction in the United States — where it will supply batteries for Volkswagens produced in the state of Georgia.