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South Korea Wants to Be World’s Top Battery Supplier by 2012

EE Times. South Korea’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy announced plans to develop next-generation rechargeable battery technology—mainly lithium-ion—and to become the top global supplier by 2012. The government said it has assembled the infrastructure and key materials needed to boost production.

The government said it expects Korean exports of li-ion batteries to grow to $2.3 billion in 2008, giving the country a global market share of 35%. That total is forecast to jump to $6 billion by 2012, with South Korea accounting for 50% of the market. The country currently holds about a 22% share ($900 million), while Japan holds about 60% of the market.

The ministry said the project focuses mainly on development of the Li-ion batteries for use in the mobile devices, hybrid electric vehicles, robots and in the power storage sector. The move follows a massive recall of Li-ion batteries by Sony Corp. used primarily in laptop PCs.

The ministry cited a government-led R&D effort designed to localize production of four key battery components: cathode-electrode active materials, anode-electrode active materials, electrolytes and separators. Domestic development of the four elements would provide an import substitution boost of more than $160 million a year, the ministry added.

A government-backed task force consisting of about 800 members from 62 industrial, academic and research institutes has been working since 2003 to develop secondary battery technology and build infrastructure. The government contributed $82.5 million to the battery project.


Harvey D.

Good intentions but the shift may be from Japan to China, India and Eastern Europe in the next decade. The low cost production capabilites of China + India seems to be overlooked. Korea may have difficulties to do much better than their actual 22% to 25% ten years from now.

Competition is the best way to keep the price low and force producers to come up with better batteries.

Lets hope that more countries will get involved and produce more higher performance lower cost battery packs for future PHEVs and EVs. A certain overproduction may help.


Now there is a government with some vision. If they want to win this one they should develope a domestic market for PHEVs and BEVs. Is Korea's labour any more expensive than China's?


batteries are the new oil. Let the race begin!


Neil - South Korea's labour is quite expensive, closing in on some western european levels. However their workforce is incredibly skilled and has now a great amount of experience in all kinds of manufacturing.

I think its a good move, as if battery technology can deliver a superior vehicle in the future the sky is the limit for the size of the market.


The battery industry does not stop at production, but continues with their recycling. Will discharged batteries be returned to Korea for recycling? Probably not. Recycling jobs are more local than international. If battery recycling is more local, so too should battery production facilities be distributed widely across the globe.

Corporate media outlets like Popular Science repeatedly claim that batteries are obsolete and will be replaced with hydrogen fuel cell devices. Such claims should raise suspicion and fears that the good of humankind is being thwarted for profit.


South Korea could keep current market share %, and become #1. As the number of producers go up, the fraction each can have may go down. This is a double edged sword, as you can lose market share too. Also, as the market for batteries grow, their sales/production numbers could go up, but they could lose market share %, if they do not grow as fast as the global market.

tom deplume

Perhaps chemical batteries will soon be made obsolete but not by fuel cells. Ultracaps have many distinct advantages over batteries. Capacitors have the ability to be recharged as fast as they can be discharged. Peak voltage is determined by the characteristics of the dielectric. Hundreds of volts per cell is easily obtained. State of charge can be measured by a simple volt meter. Properly built caps have worked for decades.

kent beuchert

"South Korea's labour is quite expensive, closing in on some western european levels. However their workforce is incredibly skilled and has now a great amount of experience in all kinds of manufacturing."
Designing better batteries requires good engineers. Building competitive batteries requires competitive labor rates, which neither Japan nor Korea possess, although it looks like the Korean government is going to subsidize the industry, which may very well give them a strong competitive position. Korean auto workers certainly don't have the same ability to practice
extortion of the consumer by fixing labor rates and eliminating competition in labor markets as do those in Western Europe or the UAW. They apparently have not yet
begun paying off the politicians with money and by getting out the vote on election day.

Rafael Seidl

Li-ion chemistries must be designed and manufactured with great care to avoid a fire hazard (cp. the cell phone & laptop PR fiascos last year). China's manufacturing sector generally features low cost but rarely total quality management. This may well change in future, but for now Western nations still enjoy an advantage. Koreans, in particular, appear to have strong cultural affinity with the concept of perfection.

Btw, NiMH batteries are recycled due to the high cost of primary nickel and the rare earths. By contrast, primary lithium is is currently still cheaper than recycling. However, Li-ion batteries do need to be disposed of separately because they pose a potential fire hazard in landfills.

Ultracaps are a great complement to batteries in electric vehicle designs, though any combo increases total system complexity. Their low energy density effectively limits stand-alone use to vehicles in heavy stop-and-go traffic in more-or-less level terrain, e.g. city buses, urban delivery trucks, garbage trucks.


Yes, batteries will be the new oil - or rather Lithium carbonate will be if we insist on putting all eggs into the LiIon basket.

Do you realise Bolivia holds over 50% of world Lithium resources and an even higher percentage of the Lithium chloride and other salts - the only Lithium resources useable for batteries? And nearly all the rest is in Argentina and Chile. China has some. Nevada is in decline.

So if we replace oil with LiIon - South America becomes the supplier of 100% of the world's new "oil".

Not sensible.


_Most of PRC Li deposits are in salts too. Qinghai and Tibet have very large, but hard to reach-relatively expensive to exploit-reserves.
_Using current global Li ore figures (12+ million tons), there may be enough of it for ~240 million PHEV, using advanced batteries. The limits on the availability of Li will lead to demand for new technology.


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