Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently revealed plans to introduce iron-based batteries that are not only cheaper but also less of a fire hazard than the current nickel-based batteries used in Tesla’s vehicles. According to Reuters, Musk is a proponent of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery technology and believes that “the vast majority of the heavy lifting for electrification will be iron-based cells.” This move is expected to allow Tesla to produce a more affordable electric vehicle and a semi-heavy electric truck.
Currently, Tesla’s Semi electric trucks use nickel-based batteries that enable them to travel 500 miles on a single charge. The Model 3 and Model Y vehicles also use nickel-based batteries, which have a capacity of 75 kilowatt-hours (kWh). However, LFP batteries will be able to hold 53 kWh.
While LFP technology is dominated by Chinese suppliers, Tesla plans to use these batteries on short-range Semi light trucks. The company has also announced plans to use LFP batteries in small electric vehicles, as well as in future versions of the Model 3 and Model Y.
The main reason why Musk and other LFP advocates are looking at iron is that it is cheaper and more abundant than a nickel. Although LFP batteries weigh more and have less capacity, providing a shorter range than nickel-based batteries, the cost savings and availability of iron-based cells outweigh these drawbacks.
One potential challenge for Tesla is getting Chinese suppliers to build LFP battery factories in the United States due to heightened political tensions between the two countries. However, LG Energy Solution out of South Korea plans to manufacture LFP batteries at a proposed factory in Arizona.