Rivian swaps batteries for LFP following Tesla and high nickel content

R. J. Scaringe, CEO of Rivian, unveils his company’s R1T all-electric pickup truck and R1S all-electric SUV to the world at the Los Angeles Auto Show, CA on November 27, 2018.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Electric vehicle maker Rivian plans to use new battery types in its electric trucks, vans and SUVs, the company said Thursday in its fourth quarter 2021 report. shareholder letter. These include cells made with Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) chemistry for standard-level vehicles and high nickel content for long-range vehicles.

LFP battery cells do not require nickel or cobalt, which can be expensive or difficult to obtain. They are also generally considered to be more stable but less energy intensive than the nickel-cobalt aluminum oxide cells used by Tesla and other automakers in electric vehicles. Although they can be fully discharged and recharged without much damage to the cell over time, LFP batteries generally do not provide the same range as NCA and other types.

High-nickel batteries, meanwhile, have higher energy density, can be recharged faster, and can travel more miles on a single charge for a battery of the same or less weight made from these cells.

Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe explained during an earnings call on Thursday that the company and its suppliers are facing various constraints due to the Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their impact on global supply chains. He said that Rivian is “overseeing one of the most complex supply chains the automotive industry has ever faced.”

Scaringe said the first LFP cell is being shipped through an unnamed partner, but said the company is “also developing its own battery chemistries and battery manufacturing capabilities.”

Rivian commercial vehicles, such as the EDV-700 they developed for Amazon, should have “similar daytime capabilities with LFP chemistry, and this chemistry provides us with significant cost savings,” Rivian wrote in its shareholder letter.

Rivian expects its consumer electric vehicles, including the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV, to have a range of more than 260 miles with a standard LFP-based battery pack.

Tesla announced plans to switch to LFP battery cells for its standard battery packs in October 2021, and both companies are following in the footsteps of Chinese electric vehicle and battery makers. This technology has become widespread in China, and as battery researchers Roskill noted that about 95% of LFP cathode production is based in China. Eliminating cobalt means reducing dependency on suppliers where forced labor is still a concern. Cobalt mining remains largely concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it has been linked to human rights abuses and child labour.

Rivian plans to produce 25,000 battery electric vehicles in 2022 and deliver the 55,000th vehicle in 2023.

The company’s shares fell more than 12% after hours on Thursday after the company fell short of Wall Street’s fourth-quarter profit expectations and predicted a modest rise in auto production in 2022.

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