It is with the world number one in batteries, the Chinese CATL, that Stellantis has joined forces to equip its smallest electric cars. The two partners intend to develop batteries based on lithium, iron and phosphate (LFP), more durable but less powerful than NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) batteries, which equip most recent electric vehicles.
Thus, Citroën unveiled in mid-October the first electric version of its emblematic C3, signing a strong start in the race for the electric entry-level, with a car costing 23,300 euros, which will be followed by a version with reduced autonomy, at 19,990 euros. The LFP battery, 44 kWh, can be connected to fast charging at 100 kW, for “ go from 20 to 80% capacity in just 26 minutes » specifies the company. The same recharge from a standard outlet will take between 2h50 and 4h10.
Those are ” moderate cost batteries, with decent autonomy “, A ” good compromise » which offers 200 to 400 kilometers of autonomy, argued Maxime Picat, purchasing director at Stellantis, during a conference call.
The two companies are considering a “ long-term collaboration »
CATL will supply Stellantis’ European factories with LFP battery cells and modules, intended to power the European production of Stellantis electric vehicles. The two companies are also considering creating a joint venture to “equivalent contribution”sealing a “ long-term collaboration between CATL and Stellantis ”, with on the one hand “ developing a bold technology roadmap to support the commercialization of Stellantis’ electric vehicles “, And on the other hand ” identifying new opportunities to strengthen the battery value chain “. The construction of a battery factory in Europe is therefore envisaged. Its size and location will be specified “ in a second time », indicated Maxime Picat.
“ The long lifespan and excellent thermal stability of LFP technology will enable Stellantis to market high-quality, durable and affordable electric passenger cars, crossovers and SUVs in the B and C segments », i.e. compact cars and small family cars, specifies Stellantis in a press release.
At the end of October, Stellantis also announced that it had taken 20% of the Chinese electric car manufacturer Leapmotor and founded a joint venture with it aimed at the international market. An investment of 1.5 billion euros for Stellantis which comes at a time when European brands are trying to avoid a debacle in a highly contested Chinese electric market by cooperating with local manufacturers, like this summer of Volkswagen and XPeng.
Volkswagen and Renault are also considering equipping their next economic models with LFP batteries. The American manufacturer Ford, for its part, also joined forces with CATL to build an LFP battery factory in Michigan, but work was suspended at the end of September due to questions about the profitability of the site, once it is operational.
A supply chain dominated by China
The current reference model for global automobiles is the lithium-ion battery, the two most common types of which are NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) and LFP (lithiated iron phosphates). NMCs have a shorter lifespan but higher energy density than LFPs. Mining nickel and manganese, two materials needed for NMC batteries, is also more harmful to the environment.
There are other large families of lithium batteries including NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum), also used by the automobile industry. The four strategic metals are lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese in order to store large quantities of energy in a compact format. The supply chain is dominated by China, which controls 75% of lithium refining and 50% of cobalt.