Samsung SDI announced on September 12 that it exhibited a multifunctional battery pack at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show and the battery pack allows the capacity of an electric vehicle (EV) battery to be freely adjusted. According to the company, the pack allows a premium car to cover a distance of 600 km to 700 km when it has 20 modules, a non-premium car can cover a distance of 300 km with the number of the modules in the pack reduced to 10 to 12, and automakers using the battery pack can design vehicles covering different distances with the single pack.
Early this year, Samsung SDI unveiled an expandable module as well. The expandable module can carry up to 24 cells whereas a general EV battery module can have 12 or so cells. The former’s energy capacity reaches 6 kWh to 8 kWh.
In the meantime, LG Chem and SK Innovation are concentrating on an increase in cell capacity. Each of the largest and third-largest EV battery manufacturers in South Korea is claiming that it started the mass production of NCM 811 batteries ahead of the other.
This type of battery has a nickel-cobalt-manganese ratio of 8:1:1 with the ratio of nickel increased from 60% to 80% and the ratio of cobalt reduced from 20% to 10%. The higher the ratio of nickel becomes, the higher the energy density of the battery. Then, the performance of the battery is improved and its price can be lowered based on the less use of cobalt, which is relatively expensive. This is why NCM 811 is regarded as a key part of third-generation batteries, which allow an EV to cover a distance of at least 500 km after fully charged.
SK Innovation announced on August 30 that it initiated the mass production of NCM 811 batteries for the first time in South Korea. It added that it would initiate the supply of the batteries for use in energy storage systems in December this year and the supply of the batteries for use in EVs in the third quarter of next year. LG Chem, however, claimed that it started the manufacturing of batteries of the same type ahead of SK Innovation. “You will see vehicles equipped with our NCM 811 batteries next year,” LG Chem president Lee Woong-beom said at a recent press conference with reporters.
EV batteries are broadly divided into prismatic, pouch-type, and cylindrical batteries. A prismatic battery has the shape of a flat metal can, is highly durable and has a low cost although it is heavy in weight. A pouch-type battery is light in weight and can have various shapes based on the ease of processing although it is expensive. Tesla uses cylindrical batteries supplied by Panasonic.
LG Chem and Samsung SDI are rather indifferent to each other as they are working on different types. In fact, Samsung SDI, the second-largest in the South Korean EV battery industry, is already using NCM 811 in small cells and LG Chem is capable of producing multifunctional battery packs on its own. It is SK Innovation that bothers LG Chem. Both of them are working on pouch-type batteries. From 2011 to 2014, they were engaged in litigation over separation membrane manufacturing technology.
SK Innovation is boosting its investment in the industry these days. It is planning to increase its production capacity to at least 10 GWh before the end of 2020 and raise its global market share to at least 10% and 30% by 2020 and 2025, respectively. In the first half of this year, LG Chem represented 12.3% of the global EV battery market to come in second while Samsung SDI came in fifth with a market share of 6.4%. SK Innovation’s share was less than 1.0%.