“This can be a huge deal,” stated Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer in a press convention unveiling plans for the manufacturing facility. Increasing battery choices will enable Ford to “construct extra EVs sooner, and finally make them extra inexpensive,” stated Invoice Ford, Ford’s govt chair. 

Also called lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP) batteries, the sort to be produced on the new plant are a lower-cost different to the nickel- and cobalt-containing batteries utilized in most electrical autos within the US and Europe immediately. Whereas the expertise has grown in reputation in China, Ford’s manufacturing facility, developed in partnership with the Chinese language battery large CATL, marks a milestone within the West. By reducing prices whereas additionally boosting charging velocity and increasing lifetime, LFP batteries might assist increase EV choices for drivers. 

Lithium-ion batteries all include lithium, which helps retailer cost in part of the battery referred to as the cathode. However lithium doesn’t do that job alone: it’s joined within the cathode by a supporting forged of different supplies.

The commonest sort of cathode utilized in autos immediately accommodates nickel, manganese, and cobalt along with lithium. Some automakers, like Tesla, use one other cathode chemistry made with nickel, cobalt, and aluminum. Each these cathode varieties have risen to prominence partially as a result of they’ve excessive vitality density, which means the batteries might be smaller and lighter than others that may retailer the identical quantity of vitality.

Whereas these two was the default selections for cathodes in EV batteries, lithium iron phosphate, an older chemistry, has seen a comeback up to now few years, largely pushed by large progress in China.

These iron-containing batteries are usually about 20% cheaper than different lithium-ion batteries with the identical capability immediately. That is partly as a result of LFP doesn’t include cobalt or nickel, costly metals which have seen large worth swings lately. Battery makers are additionally working to scale back cobalt content material as a result of mining the steel has been tied to notably dangerous working situations. 

Making cathodes with out cobalt and nickel might assist automakers lower prices, and a few have already begun to shift battery chemistry utilized in autos bought within the US. Tesla imports LFP cells from China immediately for some fashions, together with its Mannequin 3. Ford beforehand introduced that it could begin utilizing the expertise in its Mach-E in 2023 and within the F-150 Lightning in 2024. 

With its newly introduced manufacturing facility, Ford would turn out to be the primary automaker to supply LFP batteries within the US. The brand new facility, which is able to use expertise from CATL, might assist kick-start LFP manufacturing within the US extra broadly. “It’s a pivotal level for the North American manufacturing panorama,” says Evelina Stoikou, a battery expertise analyst at BloombergNEF, an energy-focused analysis agency.