LG Energy Solution, a subsidiary of LG Chem, has started developing its own lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries to be mainly sold to Chinese companies.
LG Energy Solution has already started developing its LFP batteries in its Daejeon lab. The battery manufacturer plans to build a pilot line for its lithium-iron-phosphate batteries next year at the earliest. LG’s LFP battery cells will take the pouch form rather than the prismatic or cylindrical cells favored by Chinese battery makers.
LG Energy Solution plans to work with its parent company LG Chem to supply the materials it needs for the LFP batteries. Korean media outlet, The Elec, speculates that LG Chem will seek a joint venture with a Chinese partner to supply raw materials for LG Energy Solution’s LFP batteries.
Tesla leads the way to LFP cells
Tesla started using LFP batteries from China-based battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) last year. CATL’s LFP batteries were for Giga Shanghai’s Model 3 Standard Range Plus. Since then, Tesla had started using LFP batteries in the base Made-in-China (MIC) Model 3 and base MIC Model Y.
By May 2021, Tesla announced that it would be using LFP batteries in its Megapack energy storage system. And just last month, Tesla gave US-based reservation holders the option to receive a Model 3 SR+ equipped with an LFP battery pack.
LFP Battery Market
Tesla’s switch to LFP batteries seemed like a gamble when it was first announced—one that has paid off rather well. LG Energy Solution initially resisted developing LFP batteries because iron-based cells have a lower energy density, resulting in shorter ranges per charge. LFP batteries are also heavier than their nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) counterparts. However, the widespread adoption of LFP batteries by EV makers appears to have changed the company’s mind.
Tesla only uses LFP batteries for the base variants of its vehicles because of the lower range they provide. However, there are benefits to LFP batteries. For instance, iron-based cells are cheaper to produce and rarely overheat, something LG Energy Solution might want to explore given the recent issues with GM’s Chevy Bolt EV.
Developing LFP batteries could be a good business move for LG Energy Solution in the long run. More EV startups, like Rivian and even Apple, are reportedly expected to use iron-based cells in their base vehicles as well.