Construction will begin this year on the factory in Commerce, Georgia, an hour northeast of Atlanta. When completed, it will employ 2,000 workers and produce an annual volume of lithium-ion batteries equal to 9.8 gigawatt-hours worth of batteries annually. Completion is scheduled for 2022.
SK Innovation supplies batteries to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Kia. Volkswagen has also named SK as one of its battery suppliers for its upcoming ID brand for electric cars. The South has plenty of potential customers for the batteries that will be produced at the Georgia factory.
Hyundai and Mercedes operate assembly plants in Alabama. So does Honda. Mazda and Toyota have also broken ground on a jointly owned factory in Alabama. Kia has a plant in Georgia while Volkswagen has an assembly plant up the road in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen says it is looking for a place to build another factory in the US but not necessarily in Chattanooga. With its announced intention to use SK Innovation batteries in its ID cars, perhaps Georgia could be in the running for that new VW factory
Andrew Fulbrook, executive director of light-vehicle powertrain research and analysis firm IHS Markit, tells Automotive News, “Our latest expectation is that global capacity for automotive traction batteries will need to rise to over 550 gigawatt-hours in 2025 in order to satisfy our latest demand projections.”
Every major electric car maker except Tesla has elected to let the battery experts build the batteries needed for the EVs that are already on the road or due to arrive in showrooms soon. Does Tesla know something all those other companies don’t? Probably.
Update: Bloomberg reports that SK Innovation head Jun Kim told the press at the CES show last week that the company plans to invest a total of $10 billion in new battery manufacturing capacity worldwide. By 2025, it expects to be making 100 gigawatt-hours worth of batteries each year. The announcement appears to be in response to a major new order from Volkswagen, which says it has committed to buying $35 billion worth of batteries in order to comply with tightening emissions regulations in Europe.
Such a large commitment from SK Innovation would make it a major player in the global manufacturing sector alongside such established firms as LG Chem, Samsung SDI, Panasonic, and CATL. “We’re confident we can become a global leader,” Kim said.