South Korean battery firm SK Innovation (SKI) will likely be able to move ahead with plans for large-scale U.S. battery production, thanks to a favorable decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), Reuters first reported last week.
SK Innovation has been locked in a legal battle with rival South Korean battery supplier LG Chem, which sued SK Innovation alleging it had misappropriated LG Chem trade secrets throughout the hiring of former employees in the ramp-up of factories in the U.S. and Hungary.
In February, the ITC voted to effectively ban SK Innovation from the U.S. market for 10 years, although the company would have been allowed to supply batteries for the Ford F-150 Electric pickup truck for four years, and Volkswagen's Tennessee-built electric cars for two years.
SK Innovation currently supplies battery cells for several Kia models—including the Niro EV—but those are sourced from South Korea.
SK Innovation battery-factory construction in Commerce, Georgia
The decision in favor of SK Innovation—that it doesn't infringe on LG Chem patents—comes after pressure from Ford and other companies, and it would have been an odd disharmony with the Biden administration's plans for electric vehicles. Those plans emphasize not only large production volumes, but also domestic production of components.
SK Innovation has said its Georgia factory will, after second phase is completed, be capable of making batteries for 300,000 EVs annually. The company has also said it will create 2,600 jobs in Georgia by 2024, and state lawmakers have been concerned about losing those jobs if a ban were upheld, Reuters noted.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4
While LG Chem, which is investing $4.5 billion in U.S. battery production over the next four years, has said it could fulfill demand if the Georgia factory is scrapped, the row between suppliers has complicated battery supply for the North American market.
Ford and Volkswagen had already planned to use cells from SK Innovation's Georgia factory in upcoming EVs, including Volkswagen ID.4 crossovers to be built at the automaker's Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory beginning in 2022.