South Korean battery electrolyte company Enchem will form a joint venture with China’s Huzhou Kunlun Power Battery Materials, the company said on Monday.
Enchem will make an equity investment to its Chinese counterpart. The two will also co-develop new electrolytes and construct the world’s biggest electrolyte factory line, they said.
Kunlun currently produces 60,000 metric tonnes of electrolytes annually while Enchem makes 20,000 metric tonnes.
Enchem’s South Korean rival Panaxetec has and output of 53,000 metric tonnes from its factories in South Korea, Malaysia and Hungary.
Enchem’s partnership with Kunlun seems to be aimed at diversifying its clients to those in electric vehicles (EV). Previously, it supplied most of its goods to ATL and Lishen Battery, which produces small-sized pouch batteries.
Enchem CEO Oh Jung-kang said it will become China’s most competitive electrolyte maker through its partnership with Kunlun.
Electrolyte is a key material for batteries alongside anode, cathode and separators. It accounts for 10% of the cost in making batteries. It has a relatively low entry barrier for companies but those used for large-sized batteries for EV takes considerable time to develop.
Requirements from batter cell makers are also specific and they must be price competitive. Enchem and Kunlun’s aim with the planned factory line seem to be scaling.
Enchem has operations in Poland and the US and it supplies its goods to LG Chem and SK Innovation.
Kunlun Power Battery Materials was founded in 2017 and produced mainly electrolytes for lithium iron phosphate batteries.
According to research firm SNE Research, worldwide demand for electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries was 135,000 metric tonnes in 2019. It expects this to rise of 1.093 million metric tonnes by 2025. As of 2018, China’s Tinci was the largest supplier with 35,700 metric tonnes with a market share of 20%. This was followed by compatriots Capchem and Huarong, which supplies 24,000 metric tonnes and 18,000 metric tonnes, respectively. Japan’s Central Glass and Ube Industrial supplies 17,000 metric tonnes each.