S. Korea's SK Innovation starts production of batteries with more nickel

SEOUL – South Korea’s SK Innovation said on Thursday it has started commercial production of lithium-ion batteries with an increased portion of nickel, while reducing the usage of expensive components such as cobalt to extend battery life and cut costs.

With cobalt prices rising, Asian battery makers have been trying to develop new lithium-ion batteries with a higher proportion of nickel for use in electric cars.

Typically, nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion batteries employ a ratio of 60 percent nickel to 20 percent manganese and 20 percent cobalt.

 SK Innovation, which owns South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy, on Thursday said it started the production of mid- and large-sized batteries composed of 80 percent nickel, 10 percent cobalt and 10 percent manganese.

The higher nickel content will help electric cars run farther on a single charge, the company said. The batteries will be used in energy storage from December this year, and in electric vehicles from the third quarter of next year.

“The batteries will help extend a driving range of electric vehicles up to 500 kms, and we will also develop new batteries by 2020 that can provide a range of more than 700 kms,” Lee Jon-ha, principal researcher of the company’s battery R&D center, said in the statement.

SK Innovation said it plans to boost its battery production to 10 gigawatt hours by 2020 and secure 30 percent of global market share for electric vehicle batteries by 2025.

Earlier this year, the company said it would invest up to 3 trillion won ($2.66 billion) in chemicals, oil exploration and battery businesses to propel global growth.

SK Innovation supplies batteries to Mercedes-Benz, South Korea’s Kia Motors as well as China’s BAIC Motor Corp.

Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips