LG, Samsung, SK battery CEOs seek more business opportunities in US

battery cell makers

LG Energy Solution, SK On and Samsung SDI are busy looking for further inroads into the rapidly-growing electric vehicle (EV) battery market in the United States. The heads of the Korea battery cell makers have traveled there on business or are planning to do so in order to seek more opportunities, industry sources said Sunday.

On their business trips to the U.S., the CEOs of LG, Samsung and SK are expected to hold business meetings with high-level officials of the U.S. automakers to explore future business opportunities for their battery cells, the sources said.

The sources added that the CEOs of the three battery cell makers are putting more emphasis on the EV battery market of the U.S. to respond to the Biden administration’s eco-friendly car drive, which aims to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 electric.

Kwon Young-soo, CEO and vice chairman of LG Energy Solution, is known to have plans to visit the U.S. this month. This visit will be Kwon’s first business trip to the U.S. since he took the position in November 2021.

The CEO of Korea’s largest battery cell maker is expected to inspect the company’s battery-manufacturing plants there and meet with Mary Barra, CEO of U.S. auto giant GM.

LG Energy Solution has solidified its relationship with GM, establishing joint venture and battery cell manufacturing cell factories in North America to supply batteries to GM’s car brands, such as Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Currently, the company operates its battery plant in Michigan and is building three new plants with GM in the U.S. states of Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan. In March, the company also announced the building of two new battery factories in North America including one in Ontario, Canada, which will be jointly built with multinational automaker Stellantis, and a cylindrical battery cell-manufacturing plant, which will be built in the U.S. state of Arizona.

Regarding Kwon’s business in the U.S., an LG Energy Solution spokesman declined to answer, saying, “We cannot confirm the schedule of the CEO’s visit to the U.S.”

SK Group said that Chey Jae-won, the senior vice chairman of SK Group and the co-CEO of SK Group’s battery-cell subsidiary, SK On, traveled to the U.S. in April and visited the headquarters of hydrogen company Monolith in Nebraska.

Monolith is known to use renewable electricity to convert natural gas to hydrogen and carbon black, a key raw material in the automotive and industrial sectors. The company is the first U.S. firm to produce emission-free hydrogen. Although SK Inc., the holding company of SK Group, didn’t reveal the investment amount, the company said in 2021 that it acquired a stake in the U.S. company.

“We can confirm that the senior vice chairman visited Monolith last month. The U.S. firm has production technologies of green hydrogen and solid carbon,” a spokesman of SK Inc. said.

“Solid carbon can also be used as anode material, an essential material for battery cell production, and Monolith has been conducting research on its applicability,” he added.

The industry view is that Choi Yoon-ho, CEO of Samsung SDI, may also travel to the U.S. on business in the near future given that the company will jointly build a battery cell-manufacturing plant in North America with Stellantis.

In October 2021, Samsung SDI announced a joint venture deal with Stellantis, and their plant will have an annual production capacity of 23 gigawatt-hours starting in the first half of 2025. Samsung SDI has not yet announced any detailed plans for the plant, including its location.

Regarding Choi’s U.S. trip, a Samsung SDI spokesman said, “It’s hard for us to know the schedule of our CEO.”

An official from a local battery industry said that Korean companies are focusing on the U.S. battery market because taking the lead there will enable them to take the initiative in the global market, adding that the battery market in the U.S. is expected to see around 70 percent growth in 2022 year-on-year.

“North America is a crucial production base in the global battery industry, given that the current U.S. administration is pushing forward with increasing the number of electric cars. This is why the CEOs of each battery cell company plan to visit the U.S.,” the official said, asking for anonymity.


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