The battle for the all-electric pickup market is yet to begin, but one key player and a potential rival to the Tesla Cybertruck could be poised to experience some notable delays. Due to a legal dispute between LG Chem and SK Innovation, companies that are involved in the development and production of EV batteries, vehicles like the Ford F-150 Electric may end up having issues with their production ramp.
Last year, LG Chem filed a lawsuit against SK Innovation, a competitor in the electric vehicle battery market. The South Korean battery giant alleged that SK, a much smaller company, was stealing trade secrets. In its suit, LG Chem requested the courts to prevent SK Innovation from establishing a battery production facility in the United States. If LG Chem is successful, the lawsuit could result in disruptions to the battery supply for electric cars in the US, including the highly-anticipated Ford F-150 Electric.
Carmakers affected by the potential block to SK Innovation’s US expansion such as Ford and Volkswagen have campaigned with the International Trade Commissions (ITC) to allow the South Korean firm to go through with its planned US expansion, such as a battery manufacturing facility in Georgia. In a statement to Reuters, Volkswagen called on the ITC to let the South Korean firm make EV batteries in the US to “avoid a catastrophic disruption.”
LG Chem, for its part, has stated that it would step in and fill in the gaps that SK Innovation could leave in the US. Ford, however, notes that this proposal is not credible due to the short supply of base materials and development times of EVs. It should also be noted that LG Chem has shown some challenges in the past when it came to meeting the demand for its EV batteries, resulting in delays to electric cars like the Audi e-tron. Ford added that LG Chem’s initiatives could result in lost jobs for American workers as well. “The risk to such US jobs is especially unacceptable in light of current economic conditions caused by COVID-19,” Ford argued in a statement.
While it is unfortunate that projects like the Ford F-150 Electric are at risk of being delayed due to factors that are seemingly beyond the veteran carmaker’s control, the situation highlights the importance of a dedicated vertical integration initiative. Tesla, for example, is expected to announce its own pilot battery cell production system in the upcoming Battery Day event on September 22. Elon Musk, for his part, has proven to be very optimistic about the event, noting that Battery Day will likely blow everyone’s minds.
Such initiatives, such as Tesla’s “Roadrunner” facility in Fremont, are still in their pilot stage, but they could be a difference-maker in the long run. By developing its own battery cell production capabilities, Tesla and its vehicles like the Cybertruck will likely be able to weather most storms that could result from disputes between third-party battery suppliers like LG Chem and SK Innovation.