A few days ago, CATL unveiled the world’s first LFP battery that can charge in 10 minutes. While range anxiety and frustration over the speed of charging have become the main reasons stopping consumers from shifting to EVs, CATL is trying to change that. Though the technology enabling this is not original, with startup, Enpower, pioneering the multi-gradient graphite electrode technology several years ago, CATL is now adopting it. As the Chinese battery manufacturer paves the way for EV fast charging, will this technology be enough to revolutionize LFP batteries and EV adoption?
CATL’s New Fast-Charging Technology
Shenxing, CATL’s super fast charging LFP battery, is capable of delivering 400 km of driving range with a 10-minute charge, while a full charge provides a range of over 700 km, all over a wide range of temperatures and at a high level of safety. This will encourage consumers to buy LFP-powered EVs, as drivers will be able to stop at a charging station and be out within a few minutes. With the technology expected to reduce charging anxiety, potential consumers can be more at ease.
LFP Landscape and Limitations
In a conventional battery factory, copper film runs through a roll-to-roll machine that coats it with one layer of uniform anode material. In CATL’s new approach, two separate layers of anode material are spread: one with very small particles of graphite followed by one with bigger particles of the mineral. This reduces the pathway it takes for lithium ions to settle into the graphite, and therefore allows a faster rate of charging.
On a cell level, LFP batteries have a 30% to 50% lower energy density compared to their NMC counterparts. LFP’s biggest advantage is that the thermal tolerance is higher, making them safer. In batteries with other chemistries, there is a higher risk of thermal runaway. Tesla and other EV-makers using NMC and other chemistries with this risk add more space or different materials including foams between the cells to avoid thermal runaway and fire propagation. With LFP, the cells can be placed closer together, saving space by around 15%. However, due to the low energy density, more cells are needed to reach the same kWh. Therefore, an LFP pack tends to save about 15% of corresponding volume and will only lose 15% energy density compared to an equivalent NMC pack. This leads to an approximate 5% cost difference to produce the same kWh per pack. As a result, NMC batteries are usually associated with longer ranges and LFP to shorter ones.
LFP Batteries in China’s EV Market
In the case of the Chinese EV market, it is the biggest and the most dense: the cities are packed, making the driving ranges smaller and within the city. Consequently, LFP battery-driven EVs are better adapted to the shorter ranges.
Addionics’ Solution to Improving LFP Batteries
While traditional LFP batteries suffer from smaller graphite particles and bigger problems with the adhesion to the copper, Addionics’ 3D technology can improve LFP energy density. Addionics’ porous structure allows the active material to seep into the pores, improving the current collectors’ conductivity and lowering the internal resistance, which in turn enables thicker electrodes to be used. Indeed, when a porous current collector is used, the graphite sticks to the material more efficiently and does not peel off like it does with a regular dense foil. Therefore, by incorporating Addionics’ 3D Current Collectors, the next step-change for LFP emerges by enabling a high loading capacity at the same time as lower internal resistance, paving the way for LFP to become the next “it” battery.