SK Quadruples Battery-Cell Capacity on Electric-Car Shift

SK Innovation Co. quadrupled battery-cell capacity to 20 gigawatt hours last year and plans to further boost operations worldwide as major customers from Volkswagen AG to Daimler AG churn out more electric cars.

Safeguarding production quality and battery safety takes top priority during the expansion, which should triple SK’s global capacity to 60 GWh in 2022, Chief Executive Officer Jun Kim said in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“There has not been a single fire incident” involving an electric car using SK batteries, said Kim, whose company secured a major contract for VW in the U.S. and is in talks to extend supplies to the world’s largest automaker in Europe. “We work extremely hard to ensure quality and have very strict controls,” he said.

SK’s expansion challenges China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. as well as South Korean peers LG Chem Ltd. and Samsung SDI Co., which are all trying to benefit from the accelerating shift to battery-powered cars. Aggressive ramp up plans have triggered production problems at some companies and reports about electric cars catching fire have stoked both regulatory and public scrutiny.

SK’s U.S. facilities in Georgia might double planned capacity to about 21 GWh in coming years and its 7.5-GWh site in Changzhou will be flanked by another 20 GWh factory in China. Additionally, it is considering investing in EVE Energy Co. as part of a strategic alliance, which could add another 8.5 GWh capacity in the world’s largest car market, according to Kim.