The head of Stellantis, Carlos Tavares, announces that the group’s electric cars (Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, DS, Fiat, Jeep, etc.) will be equipped with new cobalt-free LFP batteries. A less expensive technology that could lower the price of vehicles sold to customers. But he is not without his drawbacks.
Although the sales of electric cars have increased considerably, in Europe, but also in France, to the point of surpassing those of diesel cars, the price remains a major obstacle for customers. While price parity with thermal cars has yet to be reached, manufacturers are working to find solutions to lower prices. This is even more the case since Tesla made a colossal price drop on its Model 3 and Model Y last January.
less expensive technology
Therefore, the solution provided by certain brands is rreduce the size of the accumulators, as recommended by Ford and Renault. This solution is then the most ingenious pending the development of sodium batteries, which already equip a Chinese car for testing purposes and solid accumulators.
The latter should not see the light of day in a production vehicle for a few years. Today, many manufacturers use NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) batteries, which offer in particular higher energy density. In other words, for the same size, this technology can store more electricity, and therefore offer theoretically greater autonomy.
Except that this type of chemistry not only has advantages, quite the opposite. First, use cobalt, a material mined mainly in Africa, in unethical conditions and in an extremely polluting way. This is one of the reasons why electric cars cannot be called “clean”. In addition, NMC batteries are also more expensive and less reliable than LFPs.
It is for all these reasons that Carlos Tavares, current head of the Stellantis group, has just announced that the company’s electric cars will use cobalt-free LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) batteries in the future. relayed by Automotive News Europethe leader has not yet given a precise deadline for the start of the commercialization of cars equipped with this technology.
The main reason for choosing this alternative is, therefore, the price.as Tavares explains, noting that ” we need LFP and we will have LFP because it is a profitable solution to make affordable cars for the middle classes“. Thus, the businessman before the front of the PSA group that merged in 2021 with FCA suggests that the next cars from Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel or even Fiat and Jeep will be less expensive.
On the other hand, this technology is more accepting of rapid and repeated charging, which then makes it possible to compensate for the lower energy density, which affects autonomy. Which is not a concern, since we have seen that it does not make sense to want a car capable of driving too long without taking breaks, while the network of fast terminals grows more and more.
Thus, with this choice, the Stellantis group will be able to better compete with its Chinese competitors such as MG, whose MG4 starts at 29,990 euros, an ecological plus not discounted with a 51 kWh LFP battery. For comparison, the Peugeot e-208 is listed at 34,500 euros with a 54 kWh NMC pack.
But a difficulty arises for Stellantis, who is currently wondering about the origin of these batteries. Because at present, China should produce 99.5% of the world’s lithium batteries this year. A figure that could drop to 50% by 2030.
The Franco-Italian group must itself produce its own batteries in three factories that will be located in France, Italy and Germany, through the ACC joint venture created with Mercedes and TotalEnergies. The first production site will be set up in Douvrin, France, and should be operational by 2024. Stellantis will therefore compete with CATL, which also produces cells across the Rhine. For its part, Ford will also make cobalt-free batteries, but in United States.
The European group will no doubt opt to use small batteries like its rivals, while the price of lithium also rises. In addition, some specialists fear a shortage as demand is growing around the world.
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