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Major Korean Chemical Firms Zeroing in on Lighter Materials for Electric Vehicles
Focus on Engineering Plastic
Major Korean Chemical Firms Zeroing in on Lighter Materials for Electric Vehicles
  • By Michael Herh
  • October 9, 2019, 11:50
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Engineering plastic

Major Korean petrochemical companies are rushing to develop lighter materials for electric vehicles (EVs). They are revamping their organizations to focus on development of advanced materials for electric cars.

A typical example is SK Chemicals which has decided to absorb its subsidiary Initz last month. Initz produces polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), a type of super-engineering plastic. It can withstand high temperatures of 200 to 250 degrees Celsius and is lighter than metals, making itself suitable as a next-generation material for automobiles. Replacing metals with PPS can lower weights 40 percent to 50 percent.

In particular, super-engineering plastic has become a hot topic after the Japanese government's restrictions on exports of key components and materials to Korea. Although super-engineering plastic is not subject to export restrictions now, it is likely to become a regulated item as it belongs to strategic materials. "Japanese products account for 70 percent of the Korean market for super-engineering plastic," an SK Chemicals official said. “Recently, there are a growing number of Korean companies that test SK Chemicals' super-engineering plastic.”

LG Chem has recently completed the construction of a plant that can produce 110,000 tons of engineering plastic a year in Hai Phong, Vietnam. The company invested 15.2 billion won in this plant which took more than a year to complete. Engineering plastic goes into electrical and electronic products and automotive and aircraft structural materials. LG Chem supplies more than 50 percent of its engineering plastic to producers of automotive parts.

Earlier, Lotte Chemical and Hanwha Chemical announced their mergers with their material production subsidiaries. Lotte Chemical is expected to expand its automotive material business, particularly engineering plastic, after merging with Lotte Advanced Materials. Hanwha Chemical is also expected to expand its automotive material business after absorbing Hanwha Q Cells & Advanced Materials Corp.