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SK Innovation: expansion in U.S. and Hungary
South Korea’s SK Innovation Co Ltd has announced plans for a second electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in the United States and is considering expansion of another factory in Hungary, among other options.
SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun told Reuters that the expansion is in response to soaring demand for EV cells and his expectation is for more Asian manufacturers to make batteries in the United States to avoid tariffs and meet demand from local U.S. automakers. According to the Reuters story, the second plant, in Georgia, is under construction and could have a capacity equivalent to 10 GWh. The plant will reportedly require an investment of about USD 1 billion, with the ratio being 1 GWh per USD 100 million, an unnamed Reuters source said. The final figure will be subject to board approval in the first half of 2020. SK Innovation is already on record as pledging a USD 1.7 billion investment for its first plant, a 9.8 GWh facility in Tennessee, which will serve Volkswagen AG’s electric vehicle base. Production for that plant is scheduled to begin in early 2022. In Hungary, the company is also considering upping capacity at its plant, still under construction, from 10 GWh to 16GWh, in an effort to boost supply to Volkswagen, according to the Reuters story. SK also said it is in talks with Volkswagen to possibly turn the Hungary plan into a joint venture with the automaker, or alternatively, build an additional 6GWh-capacity factory in a country other than Hungary. SK is trying to cope with a surge in battery orders, which reached 500 GWh at the end of 2019, up from 320 GWh one year earlier. The extra investment, Kim noted in the Reuters story, could mean the SK battery division may break even a year later than planned, pushing that date into 2022. In turn, Volkswagen has told Reuters its battery demand has exceeded 300 GWh a year in Europe and Asia and that it is discussing options with various partners.
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