SK Innovation was planning to apply cathode supplied by China’s Ronbai Technology for its new batteries, TheElec has learned.
The cathode will be for a new high-nickel battery with over 80% nickel. Ronbai’s subsidiary in South Korea, which is building a production facility in Chungju, will likely handle the production of the cathode. Ronbai is planning to spend 600 billion won up to 2025 to build a factory with a production capacity of 65,000 metric tonnes per year.
SK Innovation is likely procuring cathode from Ronbai for cost reasons. Ronbai is the largest shareholder of EMT, a company that produces precursors for cathode in South Korea. Ronbai also has TMR, a company specializing in battery recycling, as an affiliate. In other words, Ronbai is building a battery ecosystem of its own in South Korea.
Ronbai’s cathode is highly likely to be used in NCM811 (nickel, cobalt and manganese in 8 to 1 to 1 ratio). This particular cathode is currently mostly being supplied to SK Innovation by Korean firm EcoPro BM. SK Innovation is looking to have cathodes with 90% to 94% nickel, but for now, NCM811 is its mainstay.
In the long-run, EcoPro will likely handle NCM9, while Ronbai will supply NCM811 and other low- to mid-tier cathodes.
At mainland China, SK Innovation is working with BTR. The Korean firm will spend 489 million yuan, EVE Energy 469 million yuan, and BTR 997 million yuan on their joint venture, each owning a 25%, 24% and 51% stake.
SK Innovation is also planning to procure cathode on its own. It is aiming to have around 20% of the cathode it uses procured by itself.
The expanded use of Chinese cathode suppliers and its own procurement means EcoPro BM could see its cathode supply to the Korean energy firm drop.