Last year, South Korea’s SK Innovation beat its larger, local competitor LG Chem to a multibillion-dollar offer to provide German carmaker Volkswagen with electric car batteries in the U.S.
With great fanfare, SK Innovation broke ground in March on a $1.7 billion plant in Commerce, Georgia, around 200 km from VW’s Chattanooga facility, which would be the auto manufacturer’s EV hub in the U.S.
Hurt by missing out on the VW agreement to the new entrant on the block and the departure of 77 staff for its competitor across the Han River in Seoul, LGC took SKI to court in the U.S. in April accusing it of stealing trade secrets.
Fast forward seven months, and the two corporations have hit one another with U.S. suits for battery patent violations in a bitter dispute that threatens to upset the launches of EVs by some of the world’s largest car manufacturers.
U.S court filings show the battling firms are attempting to stop each other from importing and selling EV batteries intended for the SUVs VW will build in Tennessee in addition to GM’s Bolt, Ford pickups, Jaguar’s I-Pace, Audi’s e-Tron, and Kia Motor’s Niro.
At stake is the Korean companies’ strength to supply auto manufacturers in the U.S. with batteries just as the automotive producers are struggling to lock in supplies with profitable contracts ahead of an anticipated surge in demand, according to court filings by the two firms and several other trade experts.
Ford spokesperson Jennifer Flake mentioned it was encouraging LGC and SKI to resolve their feud without trial and that it believed there was sufficient demand for multiple suppliers.