Lithium Cobalt Oxide. Lithium Manganese Oxide. Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide.

These are just a few different specific chemistries in the lithium ion family. Battery types tend to be named after the chemicals used in the cathode, which is what lithium ions flow towards when the battery is being used.

The anode, or where the ions of a charged battery are stored for use, has much less variety in terms of its makeup. It is generally of carbon or graphite, and because these are relatively cheap materials, there is only limited research into new options.

Illustration of a battery cell for LFP EV batteries

Why are there different EV battery types?

Different EV battery compositions optimize difference things, such as the life span, maximum charge speed, or how much energy a cell can hold. The specific chemistry that is used depends heavily on how it is being used.

For instance, batteries with manganese have very low internal resistance and can be charged pretty fast. However, these batteries tend to have shorter lifetimes. 

For EV use, the more popular batteries are NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide) and NCA (lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxides), which combine metals with nickel and cobalt to make them last longer and hold the most energy. 

What is an LFP battery for electric cars?

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are a chemical composition that is highly stable, has a long lifespan, and tends to be more resistant to heat degradation than their nickel-cobalt (NCA) cousins.

The other big benefit of LFP batteries is that their materials are easier to find and generally cheapter.

What's the downside of LFP batteries?

LFP batteries are about 30% less energy dense. This means that an LFP battery will hold slightly less energy than an NMC or NCA battery of the same size.

To get the same range in an LFP pack as you would in a NCA pack, you need around 30% more battery.

What's the difference between LFP and NCA or NMC batteries?

This chart show the common differences between LFP and other popular battery types for electric cars.

Illustration showing major pros and cons of LFP battery types compared to NCA or NMC batteries
Major pros and cons of each battery type

Which carmakers are adopting LFP batteries?

Tesla announced a switch to the lithium iron packs in their standard range models in 2021. The change started in China-made Standard Range vehicles and reached the US in 2022.

On their heels came news from Ford in 2023 that they plan to switch to LFP packs in European Mustang Mach-Es and in select F-150 markets in 2024. These new LFP packs are already on the road in Standard Range Mach-Es in the US, but in limited numbers. Recurrent only has a handful in our fleet so far. Fisker Ocean is also using LFP packs in their base configuration, the Sport.

Rivian announced a switch to LFP batteries and new cell configurations, allowing for faster production. They will start using LFPs in their Electric Delivery Vans for Amazon, and then switch over in their Standard Range trucks.

GM at one point announced that its revamped Chevrolet Bolt EV would use LFP packs to help cut costs, but Chevy later paused production of the Bolt.

BMW also announced it will start using LFP batteries in 2025.

Which EV models get LFP batteries?

Tesla announced in October 2021 that it was switching to LFP batteries for its standard range models in both Model 3 and Model Y.

But why did it keep cobalt batteries for the Long Range trims?

Since the LFP packs have lower energy density, you need larger LFP battery for long range or mind-boggling acceleration. The larger battery adds weight and can reduce efficiency. 

The margins that make LFP work are very thin, so most automakers are only looking to use them in Standard Range and non-performance trims.

However, we will see how Ford fares with using LFP packs in their much larger, much heavier F-150s.

In terms of Rivian's plans to use LFP batteries, they are also changing their cell configurations to allow for additional battery power to make up the difference.

Are LFP batteries cheaper?

LFP battery packs are more affordable than most NCA options so it can be a cost-saving option for entry-level EVs. Standard Range models and trims are are usually lower-priced options so they are a good fit for LFP. That price discount is the main reason that companies are switching to LFP batteries.

Like with Tesla and the Standard Range Model 3 and Model Y, the models getting LFP packs are often designed to be entry-level priced vehicles, meaning that the customers who want them may be more cost-sensitive.

Unlike the target shopper for a Model X Performance, the shopper interested in the base trim may be more impacted by a several-thousand-dollar price change due to battery material constraints.

Are LFP batteries easier to source?

Switching to LFP batteries means that battery manufacturers are not reliant on cobalt, which is a difficult material source, both geopolitically and ethically. 

In early 2022, there was a market shortage of nickel and aluminum, both of which are exported by Russia. Phosphate, which replaces nickel and aluminum in LFP cells, is much easier to source and so far, reliably cheaper. This means that LFP batteries can be made much cheaper than cobalt-based batteries. Ford cites the cheaper materials as a main driver for the change, since their cost savings will allow them to pass lower prices to consumers.

Read more about the reasons that manufacturers are switching.

Should LFP batteries be charged to 100%?

Battery scientists generally suggest charging an EV battery to 80-85% for optimal lifetime. However, this wisdom applies to NCA and NMC chemistry. Since LFP batteries are more stable, they can be charged to 100% for daily driving (and, Tesla recommends it!). 

In effect, charging to 100% means that the usable range for an LFP powered Model 3 is the same as its EPA range, while the usable range for an NCA Model 3 is only around 90% of that. When you do the math, the LFP battery has a longer daily range.  


Want to read more about charging guidance for LFPs? Dive into the science and some early data.

Do LFP batteries last longer?

Several studies show that LFP batteries have a cycle life of 2 to 4 times longer than NMC batteries. The higher cycle life is also part of the reason that Tesla recommends charging to 100%: you may not even notice any additional battery degradation on an LFP. 

Are LFP batteries safer?

LFP batteries have a much higher threshold for heat, which is what causes thermal runaway, or battery fires. For LFP batteries, thermal runaway temperature is at 270 degrees C, as compared to 210 C for NMC and 150 C for NCA.

Although it's worth reiterating that the risk of any lithium battery catching on fire is very, very rare.

Can LFP batteries charge in cold weather?

Yes, LFP batteries can certainly charge in cold conditions, but it maybe slower to charge because the car needs to spend more time warming the battery. While preconditioning does resolve these issues, drivers who can’t always anticipate their cold weather trips might suffer. 

In a video from November, 2021, Bjorn Nyland shows that performance doesn’t suffer, but charging speed definitely does if you don't have time to precondition. He posits that BMS updates to the SR+ Model 3 might have improved range and thermal management in the vehicle’s second winter on the road. 

Do LFPs have a lower voltage?

LFP batteries have a lower operating voltage per cell than other common lithium ion batteries, which means that you might need more of them if you need a specific voltage (e.g. you want to hit a certain 0-60 time).

This means that LFP technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For heavy transport needs, LFP may not be as useful as cobalt-based batteries, since a higher workload may be needed.

Will your next EV have an LFP battery?

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