Future demand for electrified vehicle batteries has led to a $1.67 billion factory project in north Georgia.
South Korean lithium ion battery producer SK Innovation Co. is not revealing who its customers will be. But SK will begin construction early next year on the plant in Commerce, Ga., about an hour northeast of Atlanta, with plans to employ 2,000 workers producing an annual volume of lithium ion batteries equal to 9.8 gigawatt-hours by 2022.
For the subsidiary of SK Group of Seoul, that volume — expressed in energy storage terms rather than units of production — will substantially increase its electrified vehicle battery output.
But it is still a drop in the bucket compared with the industry's projected need. That unmet need is a big new potential opportunity for states and communities trying to recruit the auto industry.
Andrew Fulbrook, IHS Markit executive director of light-vehicle powertrain research and analysis, said battery production forecasts continue to swell.
Last year, IHS estimated that the global industry will require battery production capacity equal to 305 gigawatt-hours of power storage in 2025 to supply the number of electrified vehicles automakers want to build. That battery forecast was eight times the current global capacity.
But Fulbrook says that forecast has risen sharply this year alone.
"Our latest expectation is that global capacity for automotive traction batteries will need to rise to over 550 gigawatt-hours in 2025 in order to satisfy our latest demand projections," he said.
But the sector's future is not yet in focus. Which battery producer will supply which automaker is far from clear. And the map that will guide future investment is not yet drawn.
Still, the industry believes battery plants will need to be near the assembly lines that will build the electrified vehicles.