Tesla released its financial data for the first quarter of 2022 after the close of the trading day on Wednesday. Johnna Crider has a report about the financials, which are spectacular, but there is something else in the report that is pretty interesting as well. The company says about half of all the cars produced in Q1 left the factory with LFP batteries installed.
“Diversification of battery chemistries is critical for long-term capacity growth, to better optimize our products for their various use cases and expand our supplier base. This is why nearly half of Tesla vehicles produced in Q1 were equipped with a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery, containing no nickel or cobalt. Currently, LFP batteries are used in most of our standard range vehicle products, as well as commercial energy storage applications. As a result of our energy efficient motors, a Model 3 with an LFP battery pack can still achieve a 267-mile EPA range,” the company said in that report.
Teslarati notes that Tesla made it clear prior to the announcement there would be battery material shortages and it would have to combat those issues by developing different cell chemistries. In August 2021, Tesla started offering LFP battery packs to customers in North America who had ordered Standard Range Model 3 trim configurations. Tesla had been using LFP battery cells in Asia and Europe for some time, while North American builds of the Model 3 SR+ utilized nickel-cobalt-aluminum battery chemistry.
Tesla reached out to people in North America who had ordered a Model 3 SR+ to offer them the choice of having an LFP battery pack. “We are contacting you about your Model 3 Standard Range Plus, currently estimated for delivery near the end of the year. We’d like to offer you the opportunity to receive your car even sooner. Due to limited supply and strong customer demand, we are introducing the Model 3 Standard Range Plus battery pack, which we already released in Europe and Asia, to North America. This battery has a range of 253 miles (est).”
Elon Musk said the product experience between nickel and iron is “roughly equivalent. I’d personally slightly opt for iron pack, as it wants to be charged to 100%, whereas nickel prefers ~90%.” There is a 10-mile range difference between the two battery packs, but the fact that the LFP cells are best charged to 100% means that owners could frequently get their vehicles’ maximum range and not worry about battery degradation.
The war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine have precipitated massive disruptions in the price of some raw materials needed to manufacture lithium-ion batteries. Nickel has gone from $30,000 a ton to more than $100,000 a ton. While such increases may be transitory — the world of commerce will find a workaround for the economic fallout from the Ukraine war — they make it clear that being dependent on lunatics for essential raw materials such as oil, methane, and nickel is fraught with danger.
That is especially true when the iron and phosphate needed to manufacture LFP batteries are both abundant in nature and relatively inexpensive. The lesson here is that Russia’s crimes may have sparked a turn away from using nickel to make the batteries for electric vehicles, which means investing in nickel futures may not be the best long-term strategy at the moment.