Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn announced Thursday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s SK Innovation to form a joint venture named BlueOvalSK to produce approximately 60 gigawatt hours (GWh) annually in traction battery cells and array modules, starting mid-decade.
The creation of the joint venture is subject to definitive agreements, regulatory approvals, and other conditions. When the deal is consummated, BlueOvalSK’s next-gen cells and arrays will be used to power several future Ford battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
“This MoU is just the start,” says Jim Farley, president and CEO of Ford. “It’s a key part of our plan to vertically integrate key capabilities that will differentiate Ford far into the future. We will not cede our future to anyone else.”
Ford’s global BEV plan calls for at least 240 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.
“We are delighted to be entering into collaboration with Ford, America’s leading and iconic automaker,” says Kim Jun, president and CEO of SK Innovation. “Ford is one of the most active players in vehicle electrification today. We are proud to be opening this new chapter in their long history. Our JV with Ford will play a pivotal role in fleshing out the electric vehicle value chain in the United States, a key objective of the current U.S. administration.”
Lisa Drake, North America COO at Ford, says, “Through the JV, Ford and SKI will jointly develop and industrialize battery cells at scale that are tailored to deliver optimum performance and value for our Ford and Lincoln customers. SKI is an important partner in helping deliver batteries with better range and value for our fully electric vehicles by mid-decade.”
SK Innovation has developed mid- to large-size EV batteries since 1991 and has expanded its battery operations globally since 2010. SK already serves two global OEM’s from a battery plant in Commerce, Ga., and is expanding its production capacity in the European Union and China.
SK Innovation says it plans to become one of the world’s top three EV battery suppliers by 2025, with more than 125 GWh in global production capacity.
“Global automakers have praised SK Innovations’ EV batteries for their safety, high capacity, and long life,” says Jee Dong-seob, head of the battery business at SK Innovation. “SK Innovation will be supplying batteries for the fully electric version of Ford’s legendary and best-selling F-150 pickup truck. We are thrilled to be supporting the electrification of a vehicle that represents the very best of American automaking.”
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 says it plans to lead the electric vehicle revolution 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, starting with EV versions of its most popular nameplates — including Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit, and F-150 Lightning.
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 and future battery manufacturing.
In addition, a $185 million collaborative learning lab in southeast Michigan dedicated to developing, testing, and building vehicle battery cells and cell arrays opens late next year.