Check out the new batteries unlocking cheaper electric vehicles

Check out the new batteries unlocking cheaper electric vehicles

Check out the new batteries unlocking cheaper electric vehicles

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“It’s a big deal,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said at a news conference unveiling plans for the plant. Expanding battery options will allow Ford to “build more electric vehicles faster and ultimately make them more affordable,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford.


Also known as lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP) batteries, the type that will be produced at the new plant is a lower-cost alternative to the nickel-cobalt-containing batteries used in most electric vehicles in the United States and around the world. Europe today. As the technology gains popularity in China, Ford’s plant, developed in partnership with Chinese battery giant CATL, marks a milestone in the West. By reducing costs while increasing charging speed and extending life, LFP batteries could help expand EV options for drivers.

Lithium-ion batteries all contain lithium, which helps store charge in a part of the battery called the cathode. But the lithium doesn’t do this job alone: ​​it’s joined in the cathode by a supporting cast of other materials.

The most common type of cathode used in vehicles today contains nickel, manganese, and cobalt in addition to lithium. Some automakers, like Tesla, use an alternate cathode chemistry based on nickel, cobalt, and aluminum. Both of these cathode types have risen to prominence in part because they have high energy density, which means the batteries will be smaller and lighter than others that can store the same amount of energy. .

While these two were the default choices for cathodes in electric vehicle batteries, lithium iron phosphate, an older chemistry, has seen a comeback in recent years, thanks in large part to huge growth. in China.

These iron-containing batteries tend to be around 20% cheaper than other lithium-ion batteries of the same capacity today. That’s partly because LFP doesn’t contain cobalt or nickel, expensive metals that have seen huge price swings in recent years. Battery manufacturers are also trying to reduce the cobalt content, because the extraction of the metal is linked to particularly harmful working conditions.

Making cobalt- and nickel-free cathodes could help automakers cut costs, and some have already started changing the battery chemistry used in vehicles sold in the United States. Tesla is now importing LFP cells from China for some models, including its Model 3. Ford previously said it would start using the technology in its Mach-E in 2023 and in the F-150 Lightning in 2024.

With its new plant announced, Ford would become the first automaker to produce LFP batteries in the United States. The new facility, which will use CATL’s technology, could help launch LFP production more widely in the United States. “This is a critical point for the North American manufacturing landscape,” says Evelina Stoikoubattery technology analyst at BloombergNEF, an energy-focused research company.


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