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For EV batteries, lithium iron phosphate becomes the material of choice – UnlistedNews

As the auto industry pushes to produce more affordable electric vehicles, whose most expensive components are batteries, lithium iron phosphate is gaining ground as the material of choice for electric vehicle batteries.

The popularity of the chemical compound known as LFP stems in part from environmental and geopolitical concerns. But technological advances have also narrowed the performance gap with more commonly used materials such as nickel and cobalt.

LFP, adopted by electric vehicle industry leader Tesla two years ago, has sparked new interest especially in the US, where a group of domestic and foreign manufacturers have pledged more than $11 billion (nearly Rs. 90,200 crore) in new production facilities.

Overseas, two of the world’s largest automakers, Toyota Motor and Hyundai Motor, announced plans last week to equip their future vehicles with LFP batteries, but have not disclosed plans for the US.

“LFP is less expensive than cobalt and nickel, and all of the minerals can be sourced here in North America (which means) much lower transportation costs and a more secure supply chain,” said Stanley Whittingham, a professor of Binghamton University in New York and a 2019 Nobel Prize for his work on lithium-ion batteries.

The addition of manganese, a basic ingredient in competing nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) battery cells, has enabled lithium iron phosphate cells to hold more energy than before, giving electric vehicles longer range, up to 450 miles (724 km) on a single charge. said Toyota recently.

Michigan-based Our Next Energy, which is building a $1.6 billion (nearly Rs. 13,100 crore) battery manufacturing complex in Van Buren township, is a supporter of LFP, according to the founder and director executive Mujeeb Ijaz, because “the materials are more abundant and sustainable, with much less risk” of fire.

“We have also shown that you can match the range of cobalt cells without compromise,” he said.

Tesla is among automakers leading the search in markets outside of China to offer lower-priced EVs; in the case of Tesla, it is aiming for a base price of around $25,000 (almost Rs. 20 lakh). Using LFP batteries should help Tesla and its rivals achieve that goal, experts say.

Ford Motor aims to open a $3.5 billion (nearly Rs. 28,700 crore) LFP cell manufacturing plant in western Michigan, leveraging technology licensed from China’s CATL, the largest EV battery maker of the world. The goal, Ford CEO Jim Farley said in February, is to reduce the automaker’s cell costs to less than $70 (almost Rs. 5.8 billion) per kilowatt-hour, from more than $100 (almost Rs. Rs. 8000)/kWh for current NCM cells. .

More than 90 percent of LFP materials and components still come from China, said battery expert Shirley Meng, a professor at the University of Chicago and director of the Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science at Argonne National Laboratory.

The growing adoption of LFP by EV manufacturers including Tesla and Hyundai suggests that those companies are “not ready to disengage from China,” Meng said.

‘attractive proposition’

Battery expert Lukasz Bednarski, author of the 2021 book “Lithium: The Global Race for Battery Dominance and the New Energy Revolution,” believes that automakers’ interest in building lower-priced electric vehicles could be one of the drivers. of the growing popularity of LFP.

“LFP provides good enough performance at a lower cost, which makes it an attractive proposition for EVs for the middle class,” he said.

Bednarski added that the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides incentives “for the development of the entire battery chain (without) a preference for LFP chemistry.”

The growing investment in LFP manufacturing facilities in the United States is coming not only from national companies like Ford and ONE.

Battery manufacturers from Norway, Israel, South Korea and even China have committed to building facilities in the US to produce LFP materials, components and batteries, some of which will not be used in vehicles, but in large power systems. Energy storage.

“LFP was invented in the US and first commercialized here,” Whittingham said. He said this happened before Chinese companies such as BYD and CATL “moved fast” to improve and implement the technology, mainly in electric vehicles.

Now, given its continued cost advantage over NCM, he added, LFP “should be used in all low-cost automotive and network storage systems.”

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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