Hyundai and SK Innovation see leased EV battery packs part of more sustainable ecosystem

Hyundai and South Korean battery manufacturer SK Innovation are teaming up on EV battery leasing—or at least the need for it.

The two companies hope to develop an “ecosystem” that includes reuse of battery packs for stationary energy storage, as well as recycling, Hyundai said in a press release Tuesday.

This “battery as a service” model envisions battery packs as part of a leasing or rental service, Hyundai said, providing another possible revenue stream for automakers and battery manufacturers beyond car sales.

The partnership aims to “strengthen the stability of the battery supply chain,” and will start by studying battery packs used in the Kia Niro EV, according to Hyundai.

Once battery packs are too degraded for continued automotive use, they can still be used for energy storage, the automaker noted. This so-called “second-life” use could pair battery packs with renewable-energy sources, allowing them to collect energy for later use, and has been discussed by other automakers, including Renault and Nissan.

2020 Kia Niro EV

2020 Kia Niro EV

Battery packs could also be recycled to extract valuable metals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt, Hyundai said.

The case for battery leasing (and swapping) was laid out well long ago by Better Place, but no companies have been able to make a viable business case around leasing the battery of an electric car to customers.

Nio has come closest, in China. Like Better Place, it uses battery-swapping stations to entice customers put off by long charging times. In August, Nio announced a battery-leasing option, in which customers pay a monthly fee in exchange for a substantial reduction in the vehicle’s price.

SK Innovation is currently locked in a legal dispute with fellow South Korean battery firm LG Chem. Alleging trade-secret violations, LG Chem is seeking to block a proposed SK Innovation battery factory in Georgia, which will supply batteries to Ford and Volkswagen.

The two companies continued to spar with dueling public statements Sunday, The Korea Herald reported. A final ruling on the case by a United States trade panel is scheduled for October.