By Joo Kyung-don
SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major battery makers are striving to secure key materials for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, with demand for cathode metals spiking in line with the EV battery sector's sharp growth, industry watchers said Monday.
According to market tracker SNE Research, 112,000 tons of cathode materials were used in the first half of the year, up 80.9 percent from a year earlier. In particular, the use of nickel-rich cathode materials has more than doubled from a year ago, the researcher said.
Cathode is one of the four main components of a lithium-ion battery, accounting for 40 percent of the battery production cost. As the source of lithium ions, it determines the capacity and the average voltage of a battery.
In sync with rising demand for cathode metals, South Korea's top-three EV battery makers have been struggling to secure a stable supply of the material.
SK Innovation Co. earlier this month inked a deal with Australian Mines Ltd. on the procurement of cobalt sulfate and nickel sulfate.
It also signed a long-term deal with Tianqi Lithium Kwinana (TLK) Pty Ltd., in Australia, a subsidiary of the China-based Tianqi Lithium Corp., the world's No. 3 producer of the metal used in EV batteries, to secure lithium hydroxide.
LG Chem Ltd., South Korea's top EV battery producer, also has been trying to beef up its insourcing capability for key EV materials.
The company currently supplies about 20 percent of cathode material input on its own, but it aims to increase that figure to at least 35 percent. LG Chem last month announced it will invest 500 billion won (US$410 million) to build a new cathode material production plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, by 2024.
No. 2 player Samsung SDI Co. produces cathode materials through its subsidiary but to better cope with the recent situation, the company reportedly has been trying to ink deals with foreign mining firms to secure cathode raw materials like cobalt and lithium.
South Korea accounted for 20 percent of global EV battery shipments in the first half of the year, with a capacity of 12.9 gigawatt hours, according to SNE Research, with LG Chem leading the way with 8.4 gigawatt hours.
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