Chinese battery makers are quickly making inroads into South Korea following a string of fires at nationwide energy storage systems (ESS) that the government has yet to offer an explanation for.
Industry sources said on June 4 that due to these safety issues, manufactures are turning to ESS facilities running on lithium iron phosphate(LFP) batteries from Chinese makers such as CATL and BYD.
Amogreentech has decided to switch to ESS running on Chinese LFP batteries for KT 5G network base stations. Previously, it had used facilities with lead acid batteries.
In May, STX signed a nationwide distribution deal with BYD, while South Korean venture firm Smart Guru has supplied LFP batteries from CATL for ESS used at Songjeong solar power plant. The facilities have begun to be commercialized.
Eugene Enerfarm, an affiliate of Eugene Group also signed on a battery supply contract with CATL, which has said it would soon launch an ESS-exclusive LFP battery with better safety and longevity.
The niche for Chinese battery-makers was created by the fact that Korean battery makers like LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation don’t produce LFP batteries. Previously, some such as Hanwha Chemical tried their hand at the business, but didn’t make progress due to a lack of bankability.
“Not only can’t Korean makers make LFP, but LFP batteries are on the whole more stable,” said Seon Woo-joon, head of battery consultancy Top21.
Unlike NMC batteries, LFP batteries have low energy density, making it hard to attain longer driving distances for electric vehicles. The upside is that they are more stable and cheaper.
Back home in China, EVs have actually switched to NMC batteries following a recent policy decision from Beijing to deny subsidies for EVs with a driving stance of under 250km. LFP batteries, however, have become more attractive for electric buses and ESS.
The global ESS market is forecast to grow 35% from an estimated $15 billion (17.75 trillion won) in2020 to $20.2 billion by 2025, according to data from the Commerce Ministry and market research firm SNE Research.