Are Cheaper EV Batteries Really the Solution Carmakers Need?

The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) has put the automotive industry in a sticky spot, since car manufacturers need to come up with ways to make EVs more affordable than might have been the case otherwise. They need to find a balance between affordability and profitability because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up making the industry more sustainable in the long run.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that a lot of car manufacturers have started to go for slightly more affordable batteries. With the cost of NCM (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide) materials rising with each passing day, cheaper LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries could provide a solution that will help car manufacturers bring EVs to a much broader audience.

In spite of the fact that this is the case, switching over to these cheaper batteries could exacerbate the range issues that EVs experience during bouts of cold weather. Companies like Tesla are already being taken to court for overstating the maximum range of distance that their cars can cover on a full battery in cold weather.

Some studies have shown that the maximum possible distance that a fully charged EV can cover can be cut in half if the weather is frigid. This can even go so far as to cause a 60% reduction in overall efficiency, which is a serious problem that would have to be resolved if these vehicles are to replace standard combustion engines that can have a seriously negative impact on the environment of the world.

However, with companies like Rivian sustaining record breaking losses in the past few quarters, they might not have any other option apart from going for LFP batteries. Range issues notwithstanding, the use of such batteries can help to make cars affordable enough that regular people would actually be able to consider buying them.

If only the old school batteries end up getting used, chances are that EVs will remain the sole purview of people in the upper crust. That will inhibit the growth of the industry and cause a wide range of problems that companies like Rivian simply won’t be able to handle for much longer.

Rivian is not the only company that is considering moving away from the NCM model, either. Well established car manufacturers such as Ford are also considering going down a similar route with all things having been considered and taken into account. Ford already has a new plant in Michigan that will focus mostly on LFP batteries, so it seems like companies are trying to make LFP the standard and fix any issues that arise later on.

LFP batteries are enticing because instead of cobalt and manganese they can use the much more widely available iron. That makes the cathodes in these batteries considerably easier to manufacture, not to mention how they will become a lot more affordable. These savings can be passed down to the consumer, although some are saying that the tradeoff might be far too severe.

It will be interesting to see how the switch from NCM to LFP goes. If it works out well, it could create a new normal for the entire industry.

Read next: Autonomous Vehicles Might Speed Up Climate Change, Here’s Why
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