Samsung and Hyundai leaders meet for collaboration in electric cars

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong (left) and Hyundai Motor Senior Vice Chairman Chung Euisun

The de facto leaders of Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor Group held a business meeting Wednesday to discuss cooperation on battery technology for electric vehicles, reports The Korea Herald.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Hyundai Motor Senior Vice Chairman Chung Euisun met at an EV battery plant operated by Samsung SDI, in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province. According to industry sources, it was Chung’s first visit to the battery affiliate’s facility.

The Hyundai Motor Group chief was briefed on the latest development of all-solid-state batteries by Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, which was announced in March. Samsung’s prototype pouch cell enables an electric vehicle to travel up to 800 kilometers on a single charge and has a lifespan of over 1,000 charges.

The meeting could lead to a new business partnership in the electric vehicle front between the two conglomerates. The tech giant and traditional automaker could work together in many areas, industry watchers said.

South Korea’s largest automaker has never purchased electric vehicle batteries from Samsung SDI, keeping the electronics giant at bay. Hyundai Motor’s EV Kona is equipped with LG Chem’s pouch type batteries, while Kia Motors’ Niro is powered by SK Innovation batteries.

Relations between the groups soured when Samsung jumped into the auto industry in the late 1990s by launching Samsung Motors. French automaker Renault picked up an 80 percent stake in the firm in 2000.

Rumors that Samsung might restart the auto business have continued until Lee led the acquisition of car infotainment and audio system maker Harman in 2016. Lee reportedly has a personal interest in the auto business. He was an outside director of the holding company of Italian carmaker Fiat-FCA from 2012 to 2016.

However, it is not confirmed whether they agreed on a specific battery supply deal during their meeting. “The meeting hints at potential cooperation on future battery technology rather than an immediate business deal,” said an industry insider.

Hyundai Motor Group has said it will mass produce electric vehicles based on its own EV platform called electric-global modular platform (E-GMP) next year. Its two auto subsidiaries plan to produce 23 EV models and sell a combined 1.06 million units by 2025.

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