The joint venture between Korea’s Samsung SDI and Germany’s Bosch plans to invest KRW500bn (US$407m) in an electric vehicle battery plant as part of its bid to gain 30% of the global market by 2015.

SB LiMotive has broken ground on its factory to produce lithium ion batteries used to power hybrid and pure electric vehicles in the southeastern city of Ulsan. The plant will start production in 2011.

The market for eco-friendly vehicles is expected to grow rapidly, boosting demand for batteries to power electric vehicles. Samsung SDI expects the lithium-ion battery market for electric cars to reach $20.4bn in 2020 from $180m in 2009.

Lithium ion batteries are currently mainly used in notebook computers, cell phones, MP3 music players and other portable devices but are increasingly being used to power electric or hybrid cars.

Samsung SDI is the world’s second largest maker of lithium ion batteries after Japan’s Sanyo, holding a 17% share at the end of 2008, according to Japanese market research firm IIT. Sanyo held 27% of the market.

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The battery and display unit of Samsung Electronics, last year launched the joint venture with Bosch. The move came as Samsung SDI, a maker of both PDP screens and bulky cathode ray tubes for TVs, seeks to transform itself into an energy firm amid the sluggish sales of its conventional display business.

The company plans to turn its complex in Ulsan into a hub for its green energy business, planning to produce not only electric vehicle batteries, but small-size rechargeable batteries, fuel cells and other next-generation energy sources.

Large corporations in Korea are stepping up their car battery businesses, hoping to cash in on rising demand for eco-friendly cars.

LG Chem, the country’s top chemicals company, recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Hyundai Mobis, Korea’s biggest auto parts maker, to collaborate on a venture for car batteries.