Hyundai and SK Innovation partner to develop EV lithium-ion battery industry ecosystem

In this photo taken on July 7, 2020 and provided by Hyundai Motor Group, the group’s Executive Vice Chairman Chung Euisun (R) shakes hands with SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won at SK Innovation’s car battery plant in Seosan, 150 kilometers south of Seoul.

Hyundai and South Korean battery manufacturer SK Innovation are teaming up on EV battery leasing—or at least the need for it, Hyundai said in a press release Tuesday.

The two companies hope to develop an “ecosystem” that includes reuse of battery packs for stationary energy storage, as well as recycling.

This “battery as a service” model envisions battery packs as part of a leasing or rental service, Hyundai said, providing another possible revenue stream for automakers and battery manufacturers beyond car sales.

The partnership aims to “strengthen the stability of the battery supply chain,” and will start by studying battery packs used in the Kia Niro EV, according to Hyundai.

Once battery packs are too degraded for continued automotive use, they can still be used for energy storage, the automaker noted. This so-called “second-life” use could pair battery packs with renewable-energy sources, allowing them to collect energy for later use, and has been discussed by other automakers, including Renault and Nissan.

Battery packs could also be recycled to extract valuable metals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt, Hyundai said.

The case for battery leasing (and swapping) was laid out well long ago by Better Place, but no companies have been able to make a viable business case around leasing the battery of an electric car to customers.

Nio has come closest, in China. Like Better Place, it uses battery-swapping stations to entice customers put off by long charging times. In August, Nio announced a battery-leasing option, in which customers pay a monthly fee in exchange for a substantial reduction in the vehicle’s price.

SK Innovation is currently locked in a legal dispute with fellow South Korean battery firm LG Chem. Alleging trade-secret violations, LG Chem is seeking to block a proposed SK Innovation battery factory in Georgia, which will supply batteries to Ford and Volkswagen.


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