As electrification continues to power through, the demand for batteries continues to increase, especially the demand for lithium ones. LFP, a lithium-ion battery that uses lithium iron phosphate cathodes and carbon-based anodes, is one of the leading chemistries of the battery race.
With more industries and companies including Tesla, Ford Motor and Volkswagen, turning towards LFP, this type of battery technology is gaining momentum. LFP batteries are considered safer due to various mechanical advantages, and require less shortage-prone and environmentally-friendly materials to be produced. Therefore, companies are turning towards LFP batteries as a leading battery chemistry solution for their EVs. However, when it comes to energy density, which impacts driving range, LFP batteries have some drawbacks in comparison to other li-ion batteries. This raises concerns about their wide range adoption for EVs. Could 3D cells be the key to LFP becoming the first choice of battery?
With predicted material shortages expected for traditional li-ion batteries, one of the main advantages of LFP batteries is the fact that less materials are needed. Where lithium, graphite, cobalt and manganese are needed for li-ion batteries, LFP doesn't use nickel and cobalt, two materials that are surrounded by prospected shortage rumors. Indeed, these potential shortages could impact the cost of the materials and make battery prices rise. Additionally, these materials are surrounded by problems related to their mining, especially cobalt, and the environmental impact of this.
Moreover, LFP batteries have a longer lifetime. Where LFP and other li-ion chemistries tend to have a useful life range between 3,000 to 5,000 cycles, opportunity charging can increase LFP life cycle count to up to 7,000. Additionally, with increased thermal and chemical stability, LFP batteries are safer and perform better than li-ion batteries when operating at higher temperatures.
Though LFP batteries are advantageous on many levels, they also come with certain disadvantages. The main one being lower energy density. In the case of EVs, this means that LFP battery packs rarely exceed a total energy density of 60 kWh, in contrast to more traditional li-ion battery packs that tend to be over 80 kWh. Indeed, LFP batteries have a low nominal voltage that reduces energy. In terms of how this impacts consumers’ lives, it translates to a shorter driving range or a shorter time of use.
Furthermore, LFP batteries don’t perform as well as other li-ion batteries at low temperatures and require more protection and care.
Due to adapted characteristics, there is an increasing trend in the industry for EV manufacturers to adopt LFP batteries. From Tesla to VW to Ford, LFP batteries are becoming more attractive and used in their fleets with their market portion increasing. Indeed, while Tesla first started using LFP batteries for its China-made Model 3 in 2020, the company said last October that it would be extending the use of LFP batteries to all of its standard-range cars. As a result, the 2022 base Tesla Model 3 RWD is equipped with LFP batteries replacing the Standard Range Plus version and offering an EPA combined range of 437 km.
New Battery Design’s Positive Impact on LFP Batteries
Though LFP batteries are good, they can be made greater with 3D design. Indeed, though LFP batteries are low density and have low electronic conductivity, 3D Electrodes can change this. Using 3D design, it is possible to change battery architecture, increase the amount of active material and reduce the inactive material, which is the main reason why LFP batteries have a lower energy density. This increases the electrical contact between the metal and active material, an essential part of performance improvements in LFP batteries.
Addionics Technology Supports the Increasing Adoption of LFP
By increasing the amount of active material loaded and reducing the amount of conductive elements, which don’t contribute to energy, Addionics technology allows LFP batteries to have more power and more energy. Indeed, Addionics 3D structures allow the amount of inactive materials to be reduced thus increasing the amount of energy available. By changing the proportions of conductive elements, we can load more active material and achieve higher energy.
In recent development projects, we observed a reduction of 50%-80% in internal resistance, compared to conventional LFP batteries, allowing faster charging. We were also able to increase the energy capacity by 20%-30% compared to a standard LFP battery using electrodes on metal foils.
As the market continues to deal with challenges involving supply chain provisions and shortages, LFP batteries are increasingly being chosen by more companies. Addionics’ technological advantages could be the key enabler to accelerating this adoption.