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Automakers Look to EV-Battery Alternatives

By NAM News Room

Your next electric car may be powered by lithium-iron-phosphate batteries instead of the nickel-and-cobalt variety now commonly used, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: Several major automotive companies plan to start using the cost-effective alternative, known as LFP, because it “could tamp down electric-vehicle costs by sidestepping the use of pricey and scarce minerals like nickel and cobalt.”

However: LFP has less energy density than nickel-based battery cells, so EVs that use it have shorter driving ranges.

  • What’s more, “the supply hub for LFP cells is heavily concentrated in China, leaving auto makers more dependent on Chinese battery supplies at a time when the industry is trying to wean itself from dependence on China for EV technology.”

Changing calculus: Still, LFP remains an attractive option. Prior to the February invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which is “a large supplier of high-grade nickel used in batteries,” EV makers tended to use the more expensive but longer-range nickel-and-cobalt batteries.

  • Now, high nickel prices have made choosing LFP a sound financial move. “The cost of LFP battery cells over the past year has run about 30% lower than cells that combine nickel, cobalt and manganese, according to research firm  Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.”
  • In addition, humanitarian concerns about the sourcing of another alternative mineral, cobalt, in the Congo have made LFP even more attractive to carmakers.

The LFP forecast: “EVs equipped with LFP batteries [are expected] to account for 40% of the global market by 2030, up from a previous forecast of 15%,” according to one analyst cited by the Wall Street Journal.

In related news: Other companies in the U.S. and Europe are working to develop EV batteries from two low-cost, abundant materials: sodium and sulfur, according to Reuters.

  • Meanwhile, battery-recycling company Redwood Materials Inc. “has reached a deal to supply Panasonic with billions of dollars in critical battery components that will be produced in the US for the first time,” Bloomberg (subscription) reports.
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