SK battery materials unit sees shortage of key EV component

SK Innovation has grown into a major industry supplier. Among peers that produce wet-type separators for EVs such as Japan’s Asahi Kasei Corp. and Toray Industries Inc., SK took the biggest market share last year with 26.5 percent, according to the statement, citing SNE Research Inc. It expects to more than double its annual separation capacity to 2.73 billion square meters in 2024 — equivalent to supplying 1 million EVs per year.

SK was a relative latecomer to the electric-car battery industry, embracing the technology only as part of a diversification push. SK Innovation began developing lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles in 2005, and spun off SK IE Technology in April 2019. SK IE Technology plans to go public next month.

While the near-term growth will remain in its separator business, the company said it plans to develop materials for solid-state batteries — a new way of making batteries that experts think could take over from the current generation of lithium-ion cells — and also expand its production of polyimide film that goes on flexible displays.

“It’ll have to be after 2030 when the solid-state battery business gets commercialized, which means lithium-ion batteries will co-exist for some time,” Roh said. “Our parent SK Innovation is also looking into startup firms with the relevant technologies to explore the areas we can take part in.”

SK is not looking beyond China, Europe and the U.S. in expanding its production capacity for now, Roh said. He said the company won’t consider building a facility in America until after 2024, as demand there is currently small compared with China and Europe and the investment and operating costs are more expensive.

The company said last month it’s investing 1.1 trillion won ($987 million) to build new factories in Poland to meet growing demand amid an EV boom in Europe.

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