South Korea’s dominance of the world’s rechargeable battery market trade is rising as a possible new bottleneck for international provide chains as demand for electrical autos surges, new information present.
The nation accounts for nearly half of the world’s manufacturing of rechargeable batteries however depends closely on imported supplies, notably uncommon earths and different inputs from China, leaving it susceptible to commerce tensions and geopolitical shocks in an more and more risky area.
South Korea has suffered a number of embargoes, with Japan imposing export controls on semiconductor parts in 2019 and China punishing Seoul in 2016 for internet hosting a US missile defend with bans on Chinese language vacationer teams to the nation and boycotts on merchandise equivalent to Hyundai automobiles.
“Firms are mulling which is the higher possibility,” mentioned Lee Dangle-koo, an adviser at Korea Automotive Expertise Institute. “Importing supplies may very well be cheaper by way of value, however they’re attempting to extend home provide, given the growing international provide chain dangers.”
South Korean producers led by LG Power Answer, SK Innovation and Samsung SDI have elevated their share of the $46bn marketplace for rechargeable batteries from about 35 per cent in 2018 to 44 per cent in 2020, in keeping with information from SNE Analysis and B3 Intelligence.
However Korean producers relied on imports for greater than 60 per cent of important battery supplies, equivalent to cathodes, anodes, separators and electrolytes, mentioned Kim Kyung-man, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic celebration, citing commerce ministry information.
This posed dangers for the trade, placing it on the mercy of commerce tensions and already strained provide chains amid surging demand for electrical automobile batteries, mentioned Kim.
“Our nation is a battery powerhouse. However we worry it might turn into a profitless middleman attributable to its heavy dependence on imports,” Kim added, urging “large-scale assist” in taxation, financing and analysis to spice up home manufacturing of battery parts and cut back reliance on imports.
South Korean firms have begun to pour funds into the chemical compounds and supplies wanted for electrical automobile batteries, hoping particularly to interrupt their reliance on mineral processing in China.
China was the world’s second-biggest producer of electrical automobile batteries with a 33 per cent market share, in keeping with B3, adopted by Japan with 17 per cent.
LG Power Answer, a unit of LG Group, has outlined plans to invest $5.2bn in battery materials manufacturing, whereas steelmaker Posco is constructing a home plant to extract lithium hydroxide, an important ingredient in cathodes, from mineral provides from Australia’s Pilbara Minerals.
Pushed by the worldwide shift to electrical autos, Korean firms have additionally constructed battery factories overseas, together with in the US and Hungary. However efforts to pivot away from China, which instructions a near-monopoly over rare earth metals, would take years to come back to fruition, analysts warned.
“It’s inevitable for producers to depend on imports due to [South Korea’s] lack of uncooked supplies. However they should step up efforts to safe key supplies domestically in case China stops supplying minerals,” mentioned Sohn Jeong-soo, a researcher on the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Sources.
The worldwide electrical automobile battery market is forecast to develop tenfold to $304.7bn by 2030, in keeping with SNE, as carmakers transition away from petrol and governments set out targets for net zero emissions and inexperienced power.
South Korean battery producers plan to take a position a mixed Won40tn ($34bn) by 2030 to keep up their lead within the sector, whereas Seoul has touted electrical automobile batteries as a major driver of development for Asia’s fourth-largest financial system.
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