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Why Tesla is shifting to cheaper battery chemistry tried in China

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Tesla has been using LFP batteries in China supplied by Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., or CATL, the world’s largest battery maker. Though the batteries, which are cheaper and more stable than alternatives, have in the past lacked the energy density — a key factor for EVs — that is quickly changing.

CATL has delivered methods to eke out better performance from the components, along with startups like Novi, Mich.-based Our Next Energy, that has won backing from Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Those advances mean the batteries are increasingly suitable for most regular electric models in all markets.

At Tesla’s Battery Day last September, Elon Musk flagged the company could look to use LFP components for lower-cost models, a nickel-manganese based chemistry for long-range cars and a high-nickel chemistry for the harder working Semi and Cybertruck. Musk has also frequently warned about tight supply and surging costs of nickel.

Musk appears to be “getting very concerned when he is looking at long-term supplies of nickel and to some extent cobalt, and he does not see a clear solution to how we ramp up production of those minerals in time to ensure price stability,” said Jim Greenberger, executive director of NAATBatt, a non-profit trade association for advanced battery technology in North America.

Tesla likely also has confidence LFP technology will continue to improve, Greenberger said.



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2021-10-21 09:48:14

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