Continental and SK Innovation launch traction battery JV

January 22, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive supplier Continental has inked an agreement with SK Innovation of Korea to es-tablish a joint venture dedicated to developing battery technology for vehicles. The two firms intend to concentrate their related expertise in this new company with the goal of mutually developing, producing and globally marketing traction batteries based on the lithium-ion technology.

The JV partners anticipate that, as CO2 regulations become more stringent worldwide, electrically assisted drives and pure electric vehicles will become increasingly important in the market. The battery is one of the key components of these technologies. The new joint company will draw on the expertise of the two technology leaders behind it: SK Innovation is providing its well-founded know-how in the development of battery cells with high energy and power density. In addition, the Korean company is said to be one of the leading suppliers of separators.

In turn, the Continental has many years of experience in developing and producing battery electronics and entire battery systems as well as integrating them into the vehicle. Continental supplied the first mass-produced lithium-ion batteries already in 2007.

SK Innovation will hold a 51% stake in the new company, Continental 49%. The business strategies of both companies will remain unaffected by the joint management of this new company.

The venture, which will be managed operationally from Berlin, is slated to start business in the fourth quarter of this year. Its research and development activities will be carried out in Daejon, South Korea, in addition to Berlin. Production, marketing and sales will be set up locally in the target markets worldwide. Initially, there will be about 200 employees worldwide, with both partner companies providing equal portions of the workforce.

The launch of the new company comes shortly after a contrary move of Continental competitor Bosch: The latter recently withdrew from a similar joint venture with Samsung and folded its share of the joint venture into a newly created fully owned activity. While these moves seem to go to opposite directions, they clearly show how fierce this competition has grown.