Samsung SDI is to supply General Motors with cylindrical battery cells for electric cars. According to Korean media, the companies will build a joint manufacturing plant with an annual capacity of at least 30 GWh. And another carmaker could use Samsungs cylindrical cells.
The Korean media outlet TheElec already reported in January wanted to switch from pouch batteries to cylindrical ones for future electric models. Together, the carmaker and battery manufacturer will invest about 5 trillion won ($3.8 billion) in a joint factory in the US.
This fits in with other media reports, according to which the companies are about to sign an agreement to build a battery factory in the US state of Michigan to manufacture both pouch and cylindrical batteries. Capacity is said to be 30 to 50 GWh.
For electric models based on the Ultium platform, GM and its numerous brands use pouch cells from Ultium Cells, a joint venture with LG Energy Solution established for this purpose. Earlier this year, GM indirectly confirmed earlier reports from TheElec that it was open to using all battery formats – despite Ultium Cells’ focus on pouch cells. However, it is unclear which models or vehicle segments the move to cylindrical cells is being considered.
Samsung SDI already ordered cathode material
According to KED Global, one of the reasons that GM is teaming up with Samsung SDI is that its current partner LGES “was not able to participate due to a lack of staff and capacity.” As a result, it says Ultium Cells’ planned fourth battery plant has also fallen through.
TheElec reports that Samsung SDI’s large order for NCA cathode material from Posco, announced in early February, could have been placed with the looming GM deal in mind. GM and Posco operate a joint venture called Ultium Chem, which produces cathode material – but so far, primarily for the joint venture with LGES.
Samsung SDI had recently fallen behind compared to other South Korean cell makers, with LGES and SK On more likely to land the big OEM deals. However, the company invested in developing cylindrical cells with a diameter of 46 millimetres and is building a pilot line in South Korea. TheElec also corroborates reports leaked in January that Samsung SDI is planning to produce round cells in Hungary for BMW, specifically for its New Class EVs.
With GM, BMW and potentially also Tesla with the 4680 cells, Samsung SDI would have won three well-known customers for its round cells. And another automaker could join the ranks: According to TheElec, Volvo could also order round cells from Samsung SDI in the future.