World’s no. 2 electric carmaker goes nickel, cobalt free

China’s BYD confirmed that it is going all-in on LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) batteries, scrapping NCM (nickel, cobalt, manganese) technology from its model line-up entirely.

BYD, which is backed by legendary US investor Warren Buffet through a 21% stake,  is the second-largest electric vehicle brand by volume behind Tesla and also supplies other carmakers with its battery technology.  

The Shenzen-based company is not only touting its ‘Blade’ technology as a significantly cheaper option but is making much of the safety of LFP versus ternary chemistries, particularly those with high nickel and low cobalt content, which carry a greater risk of fire.

BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu told the South China Morning Post “some 124 incidents of NEVs emitting smoke were recorded in China last year.”

“Some industry participants have irrationally gone after NCM batteries [to chase after] ever-higher driving range, at the expense of stability and safety.”

BYD’s blade battery packs achieve the highest energy density among the current crop of LFP-equipped cars, vastly improving its biggest drawback – low driving range and long charging times.  

For its new Tang SUV, which is being exported to Europe, the company claims a 505km (314mi) range and a 30-minute charge time from 30% to 80%. The entry-level Tesla Model 3 sold in the US has a 263-mile range.

In a note, BMO Capital Markets says given BYD is “the industry leader in LFP this announcement isn’t too surprising, and has given them a good platform to put down their ternary competition, but it does once again reinforce that a wide portfolio of battery chemistries will be used for electric vehicles over the coming years. It is however a net negative for nickel and cobalt demand.”


RELATED ARTICLE: In only its second full month of sales, the LFP-battery Tesla Model 3 captured 5.9% of the global full electric car market in terms of battery capacity deployed despite not being for sale in the US and in its first three months made up more than a fifth of Tesla’s overall sales.

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