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Opinion
Anjani Trivedi

Who Says China Has Locked in the EV Supply Chain?

As the battery supply chain gets concentrated in the hands of a few countries, a forgotten metal could help emerging and developing markets avoid getting left behind

Does this car come in manganese silver?

Does this car come in manganese silver?

Photographer: Future Publishing via Getty

The world’s biggest battery company is turning to abundantly available materials as it looks to upgrade power packs for electric vehicles. While that stands to bring down costs and raise efficiency as raw material shortages abound, it’s an opportunity for countries like India and Brazil to take their chunk of the increasingly lucrative EV supply chain before it gets too late.

After effectively popularizing safer and cheaper lithium iron phosphate, or LFP,  chemistry for EV batteries, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. is now adding manganese to the mix. Ford Motor Co. recently added LFPs to its mix and will now import them from CATL for its Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup. This latest chemistry, LMFP, and promise to commercialize it, could be yet another game changer.

In its latest formulation, manganese will boost the energy density of LFPs, allowing them to take vehicles further along (while remaining the safer and cheaper option.)  In CATL’s case, the voltage will increase from 3.2 volts to 4.1 volts. Such chemistry could provide up to 25% more energy density, according to a subsidiary of Lithium Australia that has also been working to adjust its own manufacturing processes to boost battery performance. CATL’s cells will be mass produced by the end of this year with a potential energy density of 230 Wh/kg, compared to 150Wh/kg to 180Wh/kg. That’s substantial given range anxiety and charging infrastructure remain the biggest barriers to widespread consumer adoption.