LFP Battery News — Is The End Of Nickel In Sight?

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LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries don’t have quite the energy density of batteries that use cobalt and nickel, but they do have one distinct advantage — the raw materials needed to manufacture them are abundant, inexpensive, and available in almost every country in the world. As a result, they tend to be less expensive as well. Today, nickel prices have spiked to insane new heights, further highlighting the cost differential between LFP and conventional batteries. Higher nickel prices have already led automakers to raise the sale price of many EVs that are currently on the market.

Nothing could be clearer from the war crimes perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine than a shift away from resources controlled by lunatics and tyrants is essential to national security for the US, Europe, and most of the rest of the world.  No one can afford to depend on labor or resources that may become unavailable due to armed conflicts or political constraints. (Almost no one remembers when countries in South America nationalized US oil companies, and the OPEC oil embargo is just a distant memory for most people alive today. How easily we forget when there’s money to be made!)

The Latest LFP News

Chinese news source Gasgoo reports that Gotion High Tech plans to start production of an LFP battery with an energy density of 230 Wh/kg before the end of this year. It already has similar batteries with an energy density of 210 Wh/kg in production. By comparison, the energy density of today’s cells that use cobalt and nickel is around 250 to 270 Wh/kg. “At that moment, ternary lithium batteries will be replaced by LFP ones on a larger scale in Gotion,” Li Zhen, Gotion CEO, told the China EV100 Forum 2022 this week.

Nevertheless, Gotion is continuing to invest in new ternary battery technologies that use reduced amounts of nickel and cobalt. It expects to bring production of a semi-solid-state battery with an energy density of 360 Wh/kg in the near future. Volkswagen is working closely with Gotion and stands to be the beneficiary of its battery research and development efforts.

Meanwhile, PushEVs reports that SVolt has reached the 200 Wh/kg benchmark with its own LFP batteries and expects to reach 230 Wh/kg by sometime next year. While NCM will still be used in some cases where high energy density is crucial, such as luxury electric sport cars, the cobalt-free battery technologies NMx (LNMO) and LFP (LiFePO4) are expected to power most mainstream electric cars, the publication says.

The Takeaway

One could draw an analogy to the world of combustion engines. Some people may feel they need — and are willing to pay for — humongous 6- or 7-liter V-8 engines, but the mainstream engine of choice for many manufacturers today is a turbocharged 2-liter unit that powers everything from passenger vehicles to midsize SUVs and even some pickup trucks. NMC may be the equivalent of those big V-8s, but LFP will be the workhorse of the EV revolution, at least until sodium ion batteries become available in a few years.

Nickel will soon go the way of the tetraethyl lead that once was used to boost the octane rating of gasoline. Continued high prices for nickel will see to that.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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