China's dominance of the supply chain for battery materials is undisputed at the moment, but other countries are making efforts to break free from it. That's one of the main goals of the Inflation Reduction Act introduced in the United States last year, and it looks like South Korea is also working actively in this direction, including when it comes to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.
Case in point: Hyundai Motor Group is expected to complete the development of its LFP tech late next year, according to local media reports via The Korea Herald. That could mean cheaper, easier-to-scale EVs from the Korean giant soon.
LFP batteries are cheaper, safer, and more efficient, which is why many automakers have started to use them recently, especially for their entry models. Toyota is planning a big push into more affordable LFP batteries, for example, and Ford is expanding its LFP battery presence by adding them to the Mustang Mach-E. But China holds a quasi-monopoly on the technology, which is why Western automakers especially are working to develop their own LFP batteries as China as the U.S. are locked in a tech trade war. Even that has proven contentious; Ford hit pause on an LFP battery plant in Michigan for, among other reasons, concerns about the involvement of Chinese technical partner CATL.
Despite headwinds, Hyundai is moving forward. This two-year project is said to have started this year together with Korean battery manufacturers. The LFP batteries will equip upcoming Hyundai and Kia small and entry-level electric vehicles as well as medium-priced EVs from 2025, the report says.
Gallery: 2024 Hyundai Kona Electric US
It is claimed that Hyundai's goal is to "maximize the battery cell's capacity to the highest level of more than 60 amperes," while the energy density will be around 300 watts per kilogram. In doing so, the automaker aims to improve the LFP battery's voltage and capacity to similar levels offered by more expensive nickel, manganese and cobalt (NCM) batteries.
Using LFP batteries will allow the Korean automakers to offer more affordable EVs, which is essential in a global market that has seen prices drop significantly for almost a year now amid the EV price wars started by Tesla. Hyundai also needs to do that if it wants to no longer rely on Chinese battery makers for building affordable EVs.
While Hyundai Motor Group declined to provide a comment on its LFP battery development progress, a representative said that the automaker is looking to work with small battery makers as well as large companies such as LG Energy Solution, Samsung SDI, and SK On in Korea.
Back in June, Hyundai Motor Group announced plans to invest more than $7 billion in EV battery development and related technologies over the next 10 years. CEO Jae-Hoon Chang said at the time the carmaker would jointly develop LFP, NCM, and all-solid-state batteries with battery makers and academic institutions.