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InterBattery Korea: Embracing a diversified battery industry

Industrial Automation

April 2024

Shirly Zhu

Shirly Zhu

Principal Analyst

Shirly has worked across multiple industry sectors in her 10+ year career, conducting projects requiring primary and secondary research, as well as quantitative and qualitative analysis. She’s primarily focused on Industrial Automation topics including motion and industrial controls.

InterBattery 2024, held in Korea from March 6th to 8th, attracted nearly 580 exhibitors across the whole battery supply chain and over 75,000 visitors. Since its debut in 2013, InterBattery has seen the dynamic growth of the battery industry over the past 11 years. It has now become one of Asia’s largest battery expos and a leading indicator of global battery industry trends.

Interact Analysis’ Asian team attended InterBattery and participated in on-site discussions with battery manufacturers and equipment vendors. These are our insights from the show.

Part I: Battery Manufacturers

The three Korean battery giants and event ‘hosts’ – LG Energy Solution (LGES), Samsung SDI, and SK On – showcased numerous products and downstream application scenarios.

Products: New technologies, new structures, new materials

Although the booth layouts differed among the three Korean battery companies, the products they showcased were similar. They clearly responded to market demands by featuring large cylindrical 46 series batteries and LFP batteries. In addition to this, each is also investing in R&D around solid-state batteries in a bid to become pioneers of the next era of battery technology.

Samsung SDI and SK On have scheduled the launch of solid-state batteries around 2027. Interestingly, personnel from both companies mentioned they expected to officially launch LFP batteries (LFP batteries introduced by LGES already but only for energy storage) between 2025 and 2026.

Samsung SDI exhibited a wide range of products, under its PriMX brand, at the show. Alongside mainstream offerings, it emphasized new materials (i.e. prismatic LFP batteries), new structures (i.e. the large cylindrical 46 series), and solid-state batteries.

Samsung SDI stated its product portfolio effectively fulfilled diversified customer demands in terms of performance, energy density, and price. Regarding the timeline for new product launches, large cylindrical batteries are projected to hit the market next year, while the release of new material products (prismatic LFP batteries) are scheduled for 2026-2027, aligning closely with the anticipated introduction of solid-state batteries.

Aside from its pillar products of pouch batteries, SK On also presented its Winter Pro LFP battery. This product exhibited notable enhancements in charge-discharge capacity and energy density compared with conventional LFP batteries, particularly in low-temperature environments. Furthermore, the company outlined the projected timeline for the deployment of solid-state batteries, with mass production anticipated by 2029.

CTP (cell to pack) products were also presented at the show. However, both Samsung SDI and LGES indicated that these products were still in the early stage of development, with no fixed release schedule. As the excitement surrounding skateboard platforms faded, the deployment of related products appears to have become marginalized. It comes no surprise that conceptual products are primarily showcased for demonstration purposes.

Applications: Multiple scenarios with energy storage under the spotlight

An array of downstream applications, ranging from battery electric passenger and commercial vehicles to two-wheelers, consumer electronics, and energy storage systems, were featured at the show.

The big three showcased different solutions in the electric vehicle area, covering battery electric light-duty trucks (such as the Isuzu ELF mio at LGES), battery electric heavy-duty trucks (such as the Volvo 6×4 tow trailer at Samsung SDI), and battery electric passenger cars (Kia at SK On). Kooroo, LGES’ subsidiary, demonstrated its battery-swapping two-wheelers alongside the corresponding battery swapping infrastructures. This model is now available for sales in Korea at 2.9 million Korean won (approximately $2,200), with over 180 battery swapping stations already in operation.

Battery storage emerged as a major highlight, attracting substantial attention from visitors. Samsung SDI and LGES exhibited their energy storage systems across all scenarios including front-of-meter applications, industrial and commercial sectors, and residential use.

The large-scale energy storage systems drew most attention. Samsung SDI presented its 3.84MWh liquid-cooled battery storage system (NCM batteries), released in 2023. The company integrated the whole BESS, which was installed in Hokkaido, Japan, last year.

LGES highlighted its latest 3.14 MWh large-scale battery energy storage system. This system utilizes LFP batteries (JF1 Cell), while the next generation of LFP energy storage batteries (JF2 Cell) is expected to be released in 2025. The JF2 Cell displays significant improvements in energy density and capacity compared with the JF1 Cell.

SK On focused on the 5MWh direct current (DC) side battery storage system. This system utilizes 314Ah LFP batteries, and it is expected to hit the market around 2025.

Apart from the three battery giants, we also witnessed the presence of other South Korean domestic battery manufacturers. Kumyang, for example, expanded its presence from upstream raw materials to li-ion battery production, and is scheduled to finish construction of its factory (with a planned capacity of 16 GWh) this year. According to feedback, the company plans to start the mass production of 21700 and 46 series NCM lithium batteries in 2025. Similarly, ENERTECH exhibited its battery business, covering cell production to system integration, catering to applications in electric vehicles and energy storage.

The Korean market is relatively small in size and local battery giants are therefore proactively exploring overseas markets – especially the US – within the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors.According to Interact Analysis’ Li-ion Battery Manufacturing Tracker, LGES, Samsung SDI, and SK On aim to build total capacity of over 1200 GWh by 2027. Of which, South Korea will account for more than 66 GWh (5.5% of the total), while North America (including the US and Canada) is set to deliver significant capacity of over 530 GWh, representing 48.4%. Europe is scheduled to have over 320 GWh (27.1% of the total).

Part II: Battery Equipment Vendors

Japanese and Korean companies exploring new paths; China vendors expanding overseas markets

Regarding the number of exhibitors, the order is South Korea > Japan > China, while for the number of core businesses, the order is materials vendors > equipment vendors > battery manufacturers. The top 3 Korean battery giants occupied the prime booth locations, whereas other battery manufacturers merely had a brief presence, showing limited enthusiasm. As a leading player in the chemical industry, Japan saw a wide range of exhibitors showcasing everything from positive and negative electrode materials and electrolytes, to battery recycling, with detailed solutions offered.

In the field of equipment manufacturing, Chinese players hold the dominant position. According to the latest Interact Analysis Li-ion Battery and Manufacturing Equipment report, Chinese manufacturers accounted for nearly 80% of the global li-ion battery manufacturing equipment market in 2023, while Japanese and Korean manufacturers collectively accounted for approximately 15%. At this tradeshow, we observed Japanese and Korean equipment manufacturers exploring new opportunities relating to technologies, markets, applications, and partnerships.

Both Japanese and Korean equipment manufacturers excel in the performance and reliability of individual machines, but lack comprehensive integration capabilities. Development strategies differ among Korean, Japanese and Chinese vendors:

  • Korean equipment manufacturers specialize in front-end coating machines and winding machines. They have close partnerships with the Korean battery giants, while also catering to some European, American, and Chinese customers. Their expansion into North America has unlocked significant potential, but the lack of overseas production bases and service networks remains a pain point.
  • Japanese equipment manufacturers primarily collaborate with automotive giants such as Toyota and Nissan. However, they are now facing significant competition from Chinese equipment manufacturers. Delivering turnkey solutions has emerged as a new challenge. Currently, some manufacturers are leading efforts to cooperate through enterprise alliances, aiming to jointly provide turnkey solutions.
  • Chinese equipment manufacturers are actively “going global”. They primarily focus on Europe and Southeast Asia at present, while remaining cautious about the Japan and South Korea markets. At the show, a dozen Chinese battery equipment vendors showcased their products through images alone. Many of them were attending InterBattery for the first time with the intention of observing the Korean market.

Final Thoughts

“Diversity” is emerging as a norm in the global battery industry, with innovative explorations in technologies such as large cylindrical batteries and solid-state batteries, and in applications such as energy storage.

Images credit: Interact Analysis, taken at InterBattery 2024.

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