|SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun, right, talks with guests at the groundbreaking ceremony of the company's electric vehicle battery plant in Komarom, Hungary, Thursday. / Courtesy of SK Innovation|
By Yoon Ja-young
SK Innovation has started construction of its electric car battery plant in Hungary.
The company's first plant in Europe is expected to become a bridgehead for SK to advance further into the European market where many major car producers are located.
The company said it held a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant Thursday. SK Group Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and ranking government officials from Hungary and Korea attended.
"We have made a lot of efforts since 10 years ago when we first planned the electric vehicle battery business," Chey said. "We are now seeing the fruits of those seeds, including our plant in Europe.
"We will wait for the day in the near future when we will be supplying SK batteries to all electric vehicles around the world."
After evaluating several candidates in Eastern Europe, SK Innovation chose Komarom in northwestern Hungary as the best location for the plant.
The company secured 430,000 square meters of land in the region so it can further expand following supply contracts with European carmakers. SK Innovation expects a synergetic effect as the plant is near German carmakers Audi as well as Daimler AG.
SK Innovation will invest 840 billion won, or $784 million, in the plant until 2022.
Following completion, scheduled for the latter half of 2019, SK Innovation plans to start production and supply from early 2020. It will produce electric vehicle cells of an annual 7.5 gigawatt hours (GWh) from 2022 when the whole production line is complete. That is nearly double the capacity of its plant in Seosan, Korea, where annual capacity is 3.9GWh.
SK Innovation plans to produce third-generation electric car cells at the Hungarian plant that can provide 500 kilometers of travel on a single charge.
SK Innovation said in September it started production of the NCM 811 battery, an electric vehicle pouch cell.
"Following the groundbreaking ceremony, we expect more trust by global carmakers in our battery business," SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun said. "It will also be a meaningful event in our business expansion."