Foxconn has recently approached Formosa Plastic Group in a bid to develop EV batteries together. It marks one of the latest moves of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, to enter the electric vehicle market, especially through its MiH alliance.
Earlier this month, Foxconn announced partnership with the European carmaker Stellantis. Meanwhile, Foxconn has also been working actively to get a foothold in the automotive semiconductor industry, owing to its growing importance to future automobiles.
Now, both Foxconn and Formosa Plastic Group have both confirmed that they have been in contact, without clarifying the details. It is believed that the two have been in touch to collaborate on battery development.
Aiming for solid-state batteries
Foxconn has been working hard to catch up with Tesla’s progress in EV battery, currently focusing on LFP batteries (Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery) and solid-state batteries. Solid-state batteries (SSD) have been considered as the holy grail of EV battery technology, offering many advantages, including higher safety, by replacing the liquid electrolyte in traditional Li-ion batteries with solid electrolyte.
The company plans to release its first SSD prototype this year, and commercialize it in 2024. Long Time Technology, Foxconn’s subsidiary specialized in anode materials, has been primarily charged with realizing this ambition.
At the same time, Formosa Plastics Group has been making its own venture into the EV sector too. Founded in 1954 and later became the largest PVC maker in Taiwan, Formosa Plastics Group already started researching on Li-ion batteries back in 2013. Now it has claimed to master the key technologies needed for EV production, including electric motors, electronic control systems and batteries.
It plans to build its first gigafactory in Taiwan before the end of 2022, with its annual capacity around one GWh. Moreover, it also plans to produce two types of e-truck and one type of e-bus between 2022 and 2025.
Recently, Formosa Plastics Group has cooperated with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) on producing a type of solid polymer electrolyte used in solid-state batteries.
Possible MiH membership?
Given a small domestic market, the battery industry in Taiwan has had difficulties with scaling up, according to Chen Sheng-kuang, the head of Formosa Plastics Group’s department responsible for automobiles and batteries. Fierce competitions from global players like Samsung, CATL and Panasonic as well as protectionist measures have also prevented Taiwanese battery manufacturers from venturing abroad.
Consequently, according to Chen, Taiwanese battery manufacturers have been concentrating on niche and high-end applications, rendering it hard to survive in the long term.
When the MiH alliance was formed, Foxconn recognized the same problem commonly faced by most Taiwanese manufacturers. The alliance aims to break this impasse with the global opportunities provided by EVs.
It wouldn’t be a surprise then, if Formosa Plastics Group joined the MiH alliance in the end.