Green Technology

Hyundai & Seoul National University Launch Battery Research Center

As I wrote earlier today, this new electric vehicle era is all about batteries, batteries, batteries. Much of that simply means scaling up the battery supply chain and scaling up battery production, but it also means innovating and improving battery chemistry. While Hyundai is working with SK On and LG Energy Solution on the former, it is now working with Seoul National University on the latter. Hyundai Motor Group and Seoul National University have teamed up to open the Joint Battery Research Center at the highly regarded South Korean university. The aim: world domination. Or, well, in slightly less menacing terms, “global leadership in the battery field.” Same thing, right?

The opening ceremony was today, and it was sure packed with big names. Guests included:

  • Euisun Chung, Executive Chair of Hyundai Motor Group
  • Yong Wha Kim, President and Chief Technology Officer of Hyundai Motor Group
  • Heung Soo Kim, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Strategy Office of Hyundai Motor Group
  • Chang Hwan Kim, Senior Vice President and Head of Battery Development Center of Hyundai Motor Group
  • Hong Lim Ryu, President of Seoul National University (SNU)
  • Yoo Suk Hong, Dean of Seoul National University College of Engineering
  • Seung Hwan Ko, Associate Dean of Research Affairs of the College of Engineering, SNU
  • Jong Chan Lee, Head of the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, SNU
  • Jang Wook Choi, Head of the Joint Battery Research Center and Professor at the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, SNU

There were various grand but generic statements made by some of these people and put out by their press teams.

The collaborative research center has been planned for a long time, and we most likely reported on it and then forgot about it in the meantime. “The Joint Battery Research Center began to take shape in November 2021, when the Group and Seoul National University signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the ‘establishment of a joint battery research center and mid- to long-term joint research’ based on the consensus on realizing carbon neutrality and creating a battery research ecosystem.”

What does the collaboration actually entail? Quite a lot. “To foster close cooperation among researchers, the new research facility will secure a dedicated space for battery-only research within the expanded Institute of Chemical Processes of Seoul National University, spanning three floors (901 m2). It will consist of seven laboratories and conference rooms for battery development, analysis, measurement, and process.”

There is, of course, a lot of battery research going on around the world — in universities and in corporations. However, I subscribe to the old belief that corporations and university researchers can do more together. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes those can complement each other a great deal. In this case, to start, “a total of 22 joint research projects will be carried out in four divisions, including lithium metal batteries, solid-state batteries, battery management systems (BMS) and battery process technology. A total of 21 professors and master’s and doctorate-level talents from eminent Korean universities will participate in the research. 14 of the 22 research projects will be related to lithium metal and solid-state batteries, focusing their core capabilities on developing next-generation batteries.” This is really about the long game, as one might expect from the core involvement of a research university.

As one would expect from a major corporation being involved, though, the research will keep an eye toward mass production. And that doesn’t just mean in the long, long term. “To that end, the Joint Battery Research Center has the same level of research infrastructure as the state-of-the-art equipment applied to the Hyundai Motor and Kia R&D centers, such as precision battery analysis equipment, high-precision rheometers, cell manufacturing equipment, and impedance measuring devices, so that the university’s research results can be quickly applied to products.”

More specifics: “In the field of lithium metal batteries, research will be conducted on high-durability lithium-electrolyte material element technology and shape analysis to minimize deterioration, while in the field of solid-state batteries, research will be conducted on sulfide-based anode materials, electrode/electrolyte coating methods and ultra-high energy density cathode active materials.”

Hyundai Motor Group is investing KRW 30 billion ($23.5 million) into this Joint Battery Research Center by 2030. Naturally, this is just part of its big battery master plan. “Based on its long-standing experience in developing and mass-producing EVs, the Group is also actively seeking to secure bold investment and development capabilities in the key battery sector. In particular, the Group plans to encompasses all areas of batteries by stabilizing material supply, strengthening battery design and management capabilities and developing next-generation batteries.

“Hyundai Motor will invest KRW 9.5 trillion over the next 10 years to actively improve battery performance, develop advanced technologies for next-generation batteries, and build infrastructure.”

That’s about $7.5 billion.

We’ll see what comes of the Hyundai Motor Group and Seoul National University collaboration. There is much battery research done every day across the world. One can’t expect miracles. That said, there’s something about this partnership that makes me hopeful. Perhaps it’s that Hyundai Motor Group has been a bit of a leader in EV development and technology in the past decade. Perhaps it’s the fact that South Korea has long been an EV battery leader — with companies like LG Energy Solution (formerly LG Chem), SK On, and Samsung SDI standing high in this field for a decade as well. Perhaps it’s the extensive nature and obvious commitment of this corporate–university partnership. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m hopeful. Let’s see what happens.


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