Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"What Tesla’s bet on iron-based batteries means for manufacturers" (TSLA)

Although we are loathe to relay every chemical or manufacturing 'breakthrough' (having gone through the mid-aughts and a million pixels of stuff that didn't scale up), this is one we've flagged a few times.

A deep dive from TechCrunch, July 28:

Elon Musk earlier this week made his most bullish statements yet on iron-based batteries, noting that Tesla is making a “long-term shift” toward older, cheaper lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells in its energy storage products and some entry-level EVs.

The Tesla CEO mused that the company’s batteries may eventually be roughly two-thirds iron-based and one-third nickel-based across its products. “And this is actually good because there’s plenty of iron in the world,” he added.

Musk’s comments reflect a change that is already underway within the automotive sector, mainly in China. Battery chemistries outside of China have been predominantly nickel-based — specifically nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA). These newer chemistries have become attractive to automakers due to their higher energy density, letting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) improve the range of their batteries.

If Musk’s bullishness is heralding a genuine shift across the EV industry, the question is whether battery makers outside of China will be able to keep up.

Musk is not the only automotive executive to signal a return to the LFP formula. Earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company would use LFP batteries in some commercial vehicles. Meanwhile, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess announced during the company’s inaugural battery day presentation that LFP would be used in some VW entry-level EVs.

On the energy storage front, Musk’s comments about using LFP-based chemistries in Powerwall and Megapack are in line with other stationary energy storage companies pushing for iron-based formulas. “The stationary storage industry wants to move to LFP because it’s cheaper,” Sam Jaffe, who heads the battery research firm Cairn Energy Research Advisors, told TechCrunch....


May 17
"Tesla in talks with China's EVE for low-cost battery supply deal -sources" (TSLA)
Well I guess Tony Stark Elon Musk is now officially Iron Man..... 


Back in 2018 we posted "Batteries: Lithium-Iron may be Competitive With Lithium-Cobalt" but with so many technologies that failed to scale-up over the years we are a little bit jaundiced about wasting the reader's time chasing every rabbit that pops up.

However, if this works, Elon may have found the chemistry for the next generation of Powerwalls.....

Also from 2018:
"Ten years left to redesign lithium-ion batteries"
This time frame is not too restrictive.
Tesla and their battery partner, Panasonic, have removed a lot of the cobalt (60%) from their battery recipe and are on their way to zero cobalt over the next couple years.

So, more interesting than any time pressure is the potential spur to creativity on the question of alternative chemistries.

From the journal Nature, July 25:...

One more from 2018—apparently a great year for Iron Age types while I kept writing Bronze Age on my checks. ("Dad, what's a check?"):

Twenty Month Payback for Tesla 100-MW Utility Scale Battery Storage System
Elon (and Panasonic) may have just found another multi-billion dollar business.
Going forward the chemistry probably won't be Lithium ion, maybe molten-salt or iron based, but the fact TSLA can now pitch this kind of payback probably heralds the beginnings of lithium rush 3.0, or at least the promotion thereof....

And just so you know how long it can take to go from lab bench to production, this post is from 2008!
Lithium-Ion Batteries for Less

From MIT's Technology Review:
Researchers show a low-cost route to making materials for advanced batteries in electric cars and hybrids.

A new way to make advanced lithium-ion battery materials addresses one of their chief remaining problems: cost. Arumugam Manthiram, a professor of materials engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, has demonstrated that a microwave-based method for making lithium iron phosphate takes less time and uses lower temperatures than conventional methods, which could translate into lower costs.....