- Tesla CEO Elon Musk has suggested moving more of its EVs to LFP batteries citing concerns regarding the scarcity of nickel.
- Model 3 Standard Range Plus assembled at Gigafactory Shanghai in China already uses LFP batteries, while some variants have also made their way to Europe.
- This solution will only work for short-range electric vehicles as lithium iron phosphate batteries don’t have the power and energy capacity of conventional lithium-ion cell batteries with nickel cathodes.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hinted at including LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries for more of its vehicles in the future. In October 2020, Tesla started rolling out the Model 3 Standard Range Plus produced at Gigafactory Shanghai with an LFP battery.
At around the same time, the automaker also started exporting these variants to Europe. It’s worth pointing out that the Model 3 Standard Range produced in the U.S. uses the older lithium-ion battery cells.
The concern here for Tesla is that nickel has seen a significant price increase over the past couple of years, while Musk admits that nickel is not ideally suited for the scaling of lithium-ion cell production.
“Nickel is our biggest concern for scaling lithium-ion cell production. That’s why we are shifting standard range cars to an iron cathode. Plenty of iron (and lithium)!” Musk said on Twitter.
During the company’s earnings call in July 2020, Musk requested nickel miners to upgrade their mining capabilities. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time, if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” Musk had said at the time.
However, Musk’s stance on the matter has changed somewhat. The fact that Teslas with LFP batteries are already churning out of China and heading towards Europe was an excellent indicator of things to come. And now we have some sort of a confirmation coming through from the Tesla CEO.
Some estimates suggest that nickel prices have already shot up by up to 16% this year. This is primarily because of a huge surge in the production of EVs. LFP batteries are better suited for EVs that offer a shorter range since they don’t have the energy and power density as compared to cells with nickel cathodes.