Ford and SK Innovation announce new EV batteries joint venture

by John Shepherd
President Joe Biden called for government grants for new battery production facilities when he visited a Ford EV plant in Michigan earlier this week. Photo: Ford
Ford and South Korea’s SK Innovation (SKI) today announced they will manufacture next-generation battery cells and arrays in the US as part of a new joint venture – BlueOvalSK.

The new business will have an annual production capacity of about 60 GWh – and is set to start in the middle of this decade, with the potential to expand.

The companies did not disclose details of their respective shareholdings in the venture and Ford did not reveal its financial commitment, but SKI said its investment would amount to KRW 6tn (about £3.8bn).

'Optimum performance'

Ford North America COO Lisa Drake said: "Through the JV, Ford and SKI will jointly develop and industrialise battery cells at scale that are tailored to deliver optimum performance and value for our Ford and Lincoln customers.”

Ford’s global battery electric vehicles plan calls for at least 240 GWh of battery cell capacity by 2030 – "roughly 10 plants’ worth of capacity”.

The announcement comes just weeks after SKI agreed a deal with Korean battery rivals, LG Energy Solution, to drop all litigation in a trade secrets dispute – allowing both firms to continue to expand in the US market.

'Pivotal role'

SKI CEO and president Kim Jun said the partnership with Ford "will play a pivotal role in fleshing out the EV value chain in the United States, a key objective of the current US administration”.

Meanwhile, SKI subsidiary, SK Battery America, is set to start mass production of lithium-ion EV batteries at its new plant in the US state of Georgia in 2022, followed by a second EV battery facility in 2023.

SKI has specialised in the development and commercialisation of high-nickel NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) battery technology and developed the world’s first NCM-811 battery in 2016. SKI’s high-density ‘Nickel 9’ battery (with 90% nickel content) will be mass produced in the US to power Ford’s new, all-electric F-150 Lightning pick-up truck.

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