Ford’s plans for the F-150 electric pickup and and Volkswagen’s plans for the VW ID.4 are in jeopardy as their battery supplier is facing an import ban over intellectual property issues.
LG versus SK innovation
In 2019, LG Chem, one of the top battery suppliers for electric vehicles, filed federal lawsuits against SK Innovation (SKI), another top battery supplier for electric vehicles, over allegedly stealing trade secrets.
In the suits, LG alleges that SK Innovation “accessed trade secrets” by hiring 77 employees from their lithium-ion battery division of LG Chem, which they claim “developed the world’s first commercial pouch-type Li-ion battery for automobiles.”
They claim that some of those employees stole some trade secrets before leaving for SK Innovation:
These employees include dozens of engineers involved in the research and development, manufacturing and assembly, and quality assurance testing of Li-ion batteries, including the newest and most advanced generation battery technology. The lawsuits allege that a significant number of these workers engaged in the theft of LG Chem’s trade secrets to benefit SK Innovation in the development and manufacturing of pouch-type Li-ion batteries, of which LG Chem is the world’s leading supplier.
LG Chem claims to have evidence of the employees conspiring with SK Innovation.
The company filed similar lawsuits against SKI in Korea, as both companies are based in South Korea, and they won in Supreme Court.
They are asking for injunctive relief to block SKI from importing its battery cells and modules in the US.
LG won and SKI is not the only one to lose
The International Trade Commission has now ruled on the case and banned SKI from importing its batteries in the US.
However, Bloomberg reports that the ITC has given Ford and VW, who were counting on SKI’s batteries for some upcoming electric vehicle programs in the US, a few years before the ban is implemented:
SK Innovation will be able to import components for four years beginning now for domestic battery production for Ford’s EV F-150 launching next year, and for Volkswagen’s American MEB line for two years, to give the automakers time to transition to new domestic suppliers, the International Trade Commission ordered.
Ford warned the commission that it is not easy to change battery supplier, but the automaker seems happy with the four-year delay in the ban:
This ITC decision supports our plans to bring the all-electric Ford F-150 to market in mid-2022. Providing this zero-emissions, purpose-built truck for our customers is an important part of our plan to lead the electric vehicle revolution and is a top priority for the company.
Ford has previously confirmed plans to bring an all-electric version of the F-150 pickup truck to market in 2022.
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