By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) -- SK Innovation Co., South Korea's leading refiner and chemical company, will invest another US$940 million in expanding its electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in the United States, a U.S. official has said.
Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp said the new project is in addition to SK Innovation's $1.67 billion investment to develop two manufacturing facilities in the U.S. state of Georgia.
"Georgia is cementing its place as the Southeastern U.S. hub for the electric battery and vehicle market in large part thanks to SK innovation, and it is exciting to see the growth in demand for these quality products," Kemp said in comments posted on the website of his office last Thursday.
SK Battery America, which is wholly owned by SK Innovation, is set to break ground on the second EV plant with a capacity of 11.7 gigawatt-hours in July.
SK Innovation has already been building its first EV battery plant with a capacity of 9.8 GWh in Georgia. The first plant is on track to begin mass-producing EV batteries in 2022.
The investments in the U.S. would raise SK Innovation's global output capacity to 71 GWh, enough to supply batteries to more than 1.4 million electric vehicles.
SK Innovation said it aims to boost its capacity to 100 GWh by 2025.
Currently, SK Innovation has three plants in operation in South Korea, China and Hungary.
Customers for SK innovation's batteries include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai-Kia Motors and Ford Motor Co., according to Kemp's office.
The EV battery market has been on a roll as automakers around the world race to go electric and eco-friendly due to tightened regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are to blame for global warming.
SK Innovation is South Korea's leading refiner, but it has moved into the EV battery business since 2008 as part of its efforts to diversify its operations and find new revenue sources.
Kemp's announcement comes as the U.S International Trade Commission (ITC) plans to make its final ruling in early October on an EV battery trade secret case that South Korean EV battery maker LG Chem Ltd. filed against SK Innovation.
In February, the ITC made a preliminary ruling in favor of LG Chem and made a default judgment without having additional hearings or investigations.
In November, LG Chem asked the ITC to make an early decision on the case and recognize that SK Innovation misappropriated and used its EV battery trade secrets.
LG Chem claimed that SK Innovation is guilty of civil contempt, saying its local rival did not follow the ITC's digital forensics orders.
LG Chem and SK Innovation have been at loggerheads over EV battery-related trade secrets since last year, filing multiple lawsuits in the United States and South Korea.
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