The electric car market is growing rapidly, and so is the competition among automakers to offer the best performance, range and efficiency at an affordable price. One of the key factors that determines these aspects is the battery technology used in electric vehicles (EVs). Different types of lithium-ion batteries have different characteristics, such as energy density, power density, safety, lifespan and cost.
One of the latest trends in the EV industry is the adoption of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries by some automakers, such as Stellantis, Ford and Tesla. LFP batteries use lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material and graphite as the anode material. They have some advantages over other types of lithium-ion batteries, such as lower cost, higher safety, lower toxicity and longer cycle life. However, they also have some drawbacks, such as lower energy density, higher weight and lower operating temperature range.
The main reason why some automakers are switching to LFP batteries is to reduce costs and increase profitability. According to a report by BloombergNEF, LFP battery prices fell below $100 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2020, making them cheaper than other types of lithium-ion batteries. LFP batteries also have lower cobalt content than other cathode materials, which reduces the dependence on this scarce and expensive metal.
However, using LFP batteries also means compromising on performance and efficiency. LFP batteries have a lower energy density than other types of lithium-ion batteries, which means they store less energy per unit of weight or volume. This implies that EVs with LFP batteries need more battery capacity or more battery weight to achieve the same range as EVs with other types of batteries. For example, according to Autonews Europe, Stellantis’ Peugeot e-208 with an LFP battery has a 50 kWh battery pack that weighs 345 kg and offers a range of 340 km (WLTP), while Tesla’s Model 3 Standard Range Plus with a nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) battery has a 54 kWh battery pack that weighs 283 kg and offers a range of 448 km (WLTP).
Moreover, LFP batteries have a lower power density than other types of lithium-ion batteries, which means they deliver less power per unit of weight or volume. This affects the acceleration and top speed of EVs with LFP batteries. For example, according to Autonews Europe, Stellantis’ Opel Corsa-e with an LFP battery has a maximum power output of 100 kW and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 km/h, while Tesla’s Model 3 Standard Range Plus with an NCA battery has a maximum power output of 211 kW and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 225 km/h.
Furthermore, LFP batteries have a lower operating temperature range than other types of lithium-ion batteries, which means they are more sensitive to extreme hot or cold conditions. This affects the performance, efficiency and lifespan of EVs with LFP batteries. For example, according to Battery University, LFP batteries can operate between -10°C and +60°C, while NCA batteries can operate between -30°C and +80°C.
LFP batteries are a cost-cutting solution for some automakers who want to offer affordable EVs in competitive markets. However, they also entail some compromises on performance, efficiency and operating conditions compared to other types of lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, consumers who are looking for electric cars should consider these trade-offs before making their purchase decision.