Ford to use LFP cells in Mustang Mach-E this year already
Ford will offer its Mustang Mach-E electric model in Europe with LFP battery cells before the end of 2023. Detailed technical aspects and prices for the electric SUV with the new battery variant have yet to be made available. But the manufacturer surprises with a statement on charging performance.
Ford previously announced this step for North America as well. And since both versions – the one for North America and the one for Europe – are both built in Mexico, there are presumably no further adjustments to the production line necessary. How many vehicles Ford can build with LFP batteries will therefore depend on the latter’s availability. The supplier is CATL.
In 2024, LFP cells will also be used in the F-150 Lightning in key global markets. Using lower-cost lithium iron phosphate batteries – in addition to nickel cobalt manganese batteries – should allow Ford to ramp up production of the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning more quickly. And, arguably, higher margins.
In addition to business reasons such as faster production scaling, Ford also says that LFP batteries will reduce dependence on raw materials such as nickel and cobalt. And customers would be able to choose their electric vehicle and the battery performance based on their individual mobility needs.
Here, the automaker is alluding to the well-known differences between NCM and LFP cells, such as the better cycle stability of LFP cells and the cost advantages. Ford says it could even help lower the selling prices of its EVs. However, the energy density of LFP cells is lower, which is why they enable shorter ranges than NCM cells. The latter can also deal better with low temperatures – although Ford points out that technical measures could improve the cold tolerance of LFP batteries.
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However, Ford’s statement that LFP cells “tolerate more frequent and faster charging” is surprising. In currently available EVs with LFP cells, charging performance tends to be lower than in variants with NCM cells. Tesla, for example, uses LFP cells from CATL in its Model 3 and Model Y. But: variants with LFP cells are the base model and have a significantly smaller battery than the NCM variants.
How Ford will use LFP cells is not yet known. So far, Ford offers a standard range battery with 76 kWh in the Mustang Mach-E (440 km according to WLTP) and an extended range battery with 98.7 kWh for up to 600 kilometres of range.
Ford only recently announced investments of 3.5 billion dollars for the construction of an LFP battery cell plant in Marshall, Michigan. Ford will own and operate the plant, while the technology and know-how come from CATL.
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“Tesla, for example, uses LFP cells from CATL in its Model 3 and Model Y. But: variants with LFP cells are the base model and have a significantly smaller battery than the NCM variants.”
While the LFP battery pack have less energy storage (60 kWh) they take up the same space and are heavier than the NCM packs (82 kWh). This is due to the lower energy density of LFP chemistry. While LFP continues to improve so does NCM. This inherent difference of energy density in the chemistries will not change.
An advantage of LFP is its relative thermal stability. This could allow for higher charge rates with a properly redesigned thermal management system (TMS). However the TMS could also be redesigned for weight reduction and/or cost reduction. Or minimal modifications could be made to the TMS. This seems likely with the MachE being the only vehicle Ford will be building on Ford’s GE platform. The GE2 platform under development to replace it is scheduled to launch at the end of next year with Lincoln brand vehicles in North America & China. Europe may get it’s first Lincoln vehicles in many years or they could come as specialty vehicles under Vignale. Either way they will imported, like the MachE. Ford will use VW’s MEB platform for their made in Europe BEV beginning next year. A potential 2nd vehicle on MEB has been canceled as Ford will move to producing vehicles on it’s own new small BEV platform in Europe by end of 2026.
Could it be because Ford will adopt the CATL Qilin pack architecture that promises an impressive 4C charging rate?