South Korea’s POSCO, one of the world’s top steel producers, is carrying forward a transition of its business structure to focus on “Green & Mobility”, based on various automotive capabilities in the group.
In the transition phase of the megatrend represented by low-carbon and eco-friendly environment, POSCO group should go beyond the steel business and take a leap toward becoming a leading company of eco-friendly businesses such as steel and components for electric cars, secondary battery materials, hydrogen energy, and more.
Let’s enhance manufacturing capabilities of secondary battery material business which the group has been fostering as its core business and create a Value Chain of cathode and anode materials and their raw materials such as lithium, nickel, and graphite to positive and negative active materials by gathering group’s capabilities and ultimately become a Total Solution Provider and a trusted partner in the electric vehicle (EV) market that encompasses key components such as steel for electric cars, motor cores, and raw materials for secondary batteries.—POSCO CEO Jeong-Woo Choi
In January POSCO launched “e Autopos” (eco-friendly and electrified AUTOmotive solution of POSco), an integrated brand of eco-friendly vehicle and solutions, in line with its goal of leading electric vehicle (EV) market by combining the group’s capabilities such as supplying products and solutions related to eco-friendly vehicles.
The main products of the e Autopos brand currently include high-strength steel plates for automotive bodies and chassis, steel for battery packs, energy-efficient steel plates for motors, metal separators for hydrogen EVs, and cathodes & anodes for secondary battery materials. POSCO plans to incorporate the capabilities within group companies, including POSCO Chemical, POSCO International, and POSCO SPS, to provide steel products for eco-friendly automotives and secondary battery material products, and customized application solutions for clients as a whole package.
PBC-EV. Following the launch of the brand, POSCO followed up in March with the unveiling of the POSCO body concept for an EV (PBC-EV). PBC-EV applies more than 45% of Giga Steel, achieving a weight reduction of about 30% compared to conventional fuel engine vehicles of the same size.
Giga Steel is more than three times stronger than aluminum, which has recently been applied to automotive bodies and can withstand a weight of more than 100kg per 1mm2.
The PBC-EV includes many of POSCO’s advanced steel grades because the passenger and battery spaces should be designed to prevent deformation in case of an accident or a collision. Also, the traction motor space in the front, the trunk space in the rear, and the side space should be designed to absorb the collision force.
980XF is applied for the Front Side Member that absorbs shock at the front of the vehicle due to its excellent tensile strength and elongation. For the Side Sill Inner Reinf, which absorbs shock at the relatively narrower side area, 1180 TRIP product is applied because of its outstanding strength and elongation.
In the event of a collision, the shock is first absorbed in the front, rear, and sides. The remaining energy is then transferred to the passenger and the battery space inside the vehicle. Therefore, it is important to apply a steel product that prevents this. The strength of the steel applied here should be higher than that of the ones used in the areas that receive the shock directly.
The remaining energy after the initial absorption in the Front Side Member is transferred to the Extension Member Front Side Outer Rear; this part must sustain the impact without any deformation. Accordingly, since the shape is relatively complicated, a 1.5 GPa-class 1500HPF product was applied to secure formability and collision resistance at the same time. 1500HPF is formed by heating steel plates at a high temperature of 900 °C and then cooled down and shaped in a mold.
The Dash Cross Member Outer and Seat Cross Member, which serve to protect passengers by suppressing automotive deformation in the event of a collision, employs 1500MART. 1500MART is a high tensile strength product of 1500MPa and maximizes the prevention of automotive body deformation.
The Giga Steel introduced in the e Autopos automotive body solution is also applied to the suspension. POSCO developed a lighter, longer-lasting suspension with Giga Steel. POSCO Bearing Steel is used for hub bearings that are mounted on automotive wheels to help the wheels rotate. Since POSCO Bearing Steel is used for wheels that are directly connected to passenger safety, its quality is strictly managed and it features high resistance to abrasion, cracking, and deformation.
Tires with e Autopos solution are strong to puncture. This is possible because of POSCO Tire Cord Steel. The Tire Cord Steel supports the weight of the vehicle, maintains the shape of the tire, and extends the life of the tire. POSCO’s Tire Cord Steel is made of high-strength carbon, has excellent machinability and high strength, so it is lightweight and features excellent driving stability.
POSCO’s Spring Steel is applied to the suspension spring. As for the Shock Absorber, POSCO’s Carbon Steel for Machine Structure is adopted. POSCO Spring Steel is stronger than conventional spring steel by more than 200 MPa, yet 15% lighter since the number of coils wound around is minimized, making it suitable for weight reduction.
Hyper NO and traction motor. In April, POSCO showcased Hyper NO—Non-Oriented electrical steel made by POSCO that helps improve the efficiency of traction motor due to low power loss. Non-Oriented steel is a steel with uniform power loss in all directions, and suitable for rotating device material such as motors where the rotor core rotates. Non-Oriented steel has grades—defined as Hyper NO when the core loss is 3.5W/kg (1.5T/50Hz) or less. Motor efficiency increases when the traction motor is made with Hyper NO.
Hyper NO was developed to minimize the energy loss that occurred inevitably in the process of converting electrical energy to rotational energy and also to increase efficiency, resulting in more than 30% lower energy loss compared to existing electrical steel. The thinner the electrical steel is, the less the core loss. POSCO is capable of producing Hyper NO thickness up to 0.15mm, allowing it to reduce core loss.
The core of the traction motor is made by overlapping the electrical steel in several layers. Previously, electric steel was attached with welding, but welding had a problem that degraded the electromagnetic characteristics of electrical steel.
Accordingly, POSCO developed ‘self-bonding’ technology. Self-bonding is the application of an adhesive-like coating to the surface of electrical steel which enables it to bond closely without degrading the electromagnetic characteristics of electrical steel and even reducing not only core loss but also the noise generated by the gap between plates.
POSCO is expanding its sales through strengthening its network by providing electrical steel and use-solutions directly to global automakers and components companies. POSCO SPS is increasing the added value by producing the traction motor core with electrical steel.
Batteries and fuel cells. POSCO is also focusing on cathode and anode materials, plus bipolar plates for FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle).
POSCO has built a supply chain of secondary battery materials such as lithium, nickel, and graphite including anode and cathode materials. The company plans to build a lithium extraction plant, targeted to come online in 2023, in Gwangyang with an an annual capacity of 43,000 tons—enough for 1 million EV batteries.
By 2030, the group plans to supply 220,000 tons of lithium and 100,000 tons of nickel to accomplish production system of manufacturing 400,000 tons of anode materials and 260,000 tons of cathode materials.
Green hydrogen. POSCO plans to establish a foundation for the value chain of green hydrogen production-transportation-storage-utilization in cooperation with developing ammonia hydrogen extraction technology.