Ford and SK Innovation announced Thursday they have signed an MoU to create a joint venture – to be called BlueOvalSK – to produce approximately 60 GWh annually in traction battery cells and array modules, starting mid-decade, with potential to expand.
The creation of the JV is subject to definitive agreements, regulatory approvals and other conditions. Next-gen cells and arrays will be used to power several future Ford battery electric vehicles.
Ford’s global BEV plan calls for at least 240 gigawatt hours (GWh) of battery cell capacity by 2030 – roughly 10 plants’ worth of capacity. Approximately 140 GWh will be required in North America, with the balance dedicated to other key regions, including Europe and China.
SK Innovation is a global energy conglomerate headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. The company has pioneered the development of mid- to large-size EV batteries since 1991 and has expanded its battery operations globally since 2010. SK already operates a battery plant in Commerce, Georgia, USA – serving two global OEMs – and is expanding its production capacity in the European Union and China. SK Innovation plans to become one of the world’s top three EV battery suppliers by 2025 with over 125 GWh in global production capacity.
SK Innovation has specialized in the development and commercialization of high-nickel NCM battery technology. The company developed the world’s first NCM-811 battery in 2016 and continued to innovate and to develop the world’s first Nickel 9 battery that will be mass produced in the U.S., powering Ford’s F-150 Lightning.
Ford gaining EV momentum
Ford plans to lead the electric vehicle revolution – including by delivering fifth-generation lithium ion batteries as well as preparing for the transition to solid-state batteries, which promise longer range, lower cost and safer EVs for customers.
Ford this year announced its commitment to invest at least $22 billion through 2025 to deliver connected, all-electric vehicles, building on its areas of strength, starting with EV versions of its most popular nameplates – including Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit and F-150 Lightning.
To support its longer-term battery plans, Ford is investing in battery R&D. Last month, Ford announced a new global battery center of excellence – named Ford Ion Park – to accelerate its battery and battery cell technology R&D – including future battery manufacturing.
Ford is building on nearly two decades of battery expertise by centralizing a cross-functional team of 150 experts in battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality and finance to help Ford more quickly develop and manufacture battery cells and batteries, ultimately aiming to deliver more, even better, lower cost EVs for customers.
The Ford Ion Park team already is underway. In addition, a $185 million collaborative learning lab in Southeast Michigan that is dedicated to developing, testing and building vehicle battery cells and cell arrays opens late next year.
Earlier this month, Ford also announced it is growing its investment in Solid Power, an industry-leading producer of all-solid-state batteries for EVs. Initially investing in Solid Power in 2019, Ford is making an additional equity investment to help accelerate further development of solid-state vehicle battery technology, contributing to a $130 million Series B investment round in which the BMW Group becomes an equal equity owner with Ford.
Solid-state batteries are showing great promise. They don’t use the liquid electrolyte found in conventional lithium-ion batteries, can be lighter, with greater energy density and provide more range and lower cost. They also can be made on today’s lithium-ion battery lines, allowing Ford to reuse about 70 percent of its capital investment in lithium-ion manufacturing lines.
Proven electrification expertise
SK Innovation has a spotless health and safety record and has not registered a single EV battery-related fire.
Ford has been actively involved in battery research and electric vehicles, starting with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. To date, the company has secured more than 2,500 U.S. patents in electrification technologies, with another 4,300 patents pending.
Since 2004, Ford has sold more than 1 million hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles and integrated four generations of batteries into its vehicles. By year-end, the company will be manufacturing electrified vehicles and supporting technologies at more than 15 powertrain and vehicle assembly plants globally.
Ford has assembled hybrid battery packs and electric motors in Michigan since 2012. That same year, Ford invested $135 million to design, engineer and produce these components for hybrids. It included a combined 170 jobs at the Rawsonville plant to assemble batteries and VanDyke Transmission plant to assemble e-motors, plus hiring more than 50 electric vehicle engineers.