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  • Writer's pictureSilvia Josten

Green LFP - the lithium iron phosphate battery

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

grüne Baztterie inmitten mehrerer grauer Batterien

The battery technology of electric vehicles is a much-discussed topic. Performance - and thus range - but also sustainable components are meaningful quality characteristics. Vehicle manufacturers are constantly trying to improve the performance of electricity storage systems and are using the latest technology. Currently, nickel-cobalt-manganese cell chemistry (NMC) still dominates, but in the future more and more carmakers will rely on lithium-iron phosphate batteries. The advantages are obvious: lower costs of the materials, better availability, environmentally friendly and faster charging. We present the green battery of the future.

From an ecological point of view, lithium iron phosphate is non-toxic and harmless.

The lithium iron phosphate battery, also abbreviated as LFP or LiFePO4 battery, is a form of lithium ion battery that consists only of battery material that also occurs in its chemical composition as a natural mineral. A battery has two electrodes. One of them consists of graphite, the other of a lithium iron phosphate mixture. These batteries therefore contain neither cobalt nor nickel, both of which are considered toxic heavy metals. The first iron phosphate cell was developed in the late 1990s. The nominal voltage of iron phosphate cells is 3.2 to 3.3 volts, which is lower than that of other lithium-ion batteries. The energy density of a classic lithium-ion battery is around 180 Wh/kg, that of a lithium iron phosphate battery only 90 to 110 Wh/kg. This lower energy density is currently still the biggest disadvantage of the lithium iron phosphate battery. To achieve the same performance as a conventional Li-ion battery, more cells are needed. The battery therefore requires more space and is initially more expensive.

When it comes to recycling, on the other hand, the lithium iron phosphate battery scores points compared to other material combinations, because all the metals used can be recycled up to 100 %. More than 90 % of the electrode materials and the polymer separator can also be recycled. Only the other materials, such as the electrolyte, can no longer be recycled.

The LFP batteries are extremely safe

Lithium iron phosphate cells are considered robust. They are not flammable or explosive, and can withstand even extreme temperatures and damage. This distinguishes them from conventional lithium-ion batteries, which have the risk of ignition if overheated or exposed to external factors. This also has a positive effect on effectiveness under extreme temperature fluctuations. A significant loss of range in winter is therefore not to be feared.

The lithium iron phosphate batterie (LFP) guarantee numerous fast charging cycles

Lithium iron phosphate batteries are extremely durable: even after 10,000 charging cycles, they still have a remaining capacity of well over 75 percent in some cases. This makes them enormously cycle-resistant. Moreover, lithium iron phosphate batteries can be charged and discharged faster than other batteries. This significantly minimises the standby time during fast charging processes.

These advantages make LFP batteries interesting not only for the automotive industry. They can also be used as stationary batteries, in e-bikes and e-scooters.

More and more manufacturers are relying on lithium iron phosphate as battery components.

Pioneers in the use of LFP batteries are Tesla (in the Model 3 and Model Y) and BYD, which source the advanced battery technology from Chinese manufacturer CATL. China almost completely dominates the LFP cell market and will produce 99.5% of the global market share this year. CATL is also expanding into Europe, however, and pre-production began at a plant in Erfurt last year.

Graues Sportauto steht in einem Ford-Showroom.

Ford follows suit and invests 3.5 billion US dollars in the construction of an LFP battery plant in Michigan/USA. "We will use LFP batteries in the Mustang Mach-E as early as this spring," said Group CEO Jim Farley at the presentation of the new e-car strategy in the USA. The company announced its intention to equip both its next-generation electric cars and commercial vehicles already in development with lithium iron phosphate batteries. This means that the new batteries should also be used in European models. In addition to savings of 10 to 15 %, Ford expects a faster increase in production numbers and thus shorter delivery times. From the end of 2023, the customer will be able to choose between the installation of a conventional NCM or an LFP battery in a Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Charles Poon, Global Director of Electric System Engineering at Ford, explains the difference between the two variants in his "Batterie Show".

The technology is also used by premium Chinese brands Xpeng and Nio, as well as growing volume brand MG. MG, owned by China's SAIC, is using LFP batteries in the entry-level versions of its new MG4 compact car, which competes with the VW ID.3 and Peugeot e-208.

In order to be able to maintain or reduce prices, Stellantis (Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Fiat) is now also relying on the cheaper cells. In future, vehicles up to the middle class will be equipped with LFP cells. "We need LFP and we will have LFP because it is a competitive cost position to make affordable cars for the middle class," Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis, said at an accounting conference in February.

Car buying of tomorrow will change

In the past, the question was whether to drive a diesel or a petrol car. The annual KM performance played the decisive factor. In the future, new cars will be reclassified. Then it will no longer be about the energy that is charged, which will undoubtedly be electricity. Then it will only be a matter of distinguishing the type of battery: lithium-ion or lithium-iron phosphate battery?


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