By Anshul Gupta
The electric vehicle (EV) industry is seeing rapid growth, driven by government support, favourable business conditions and technological advancements. According to Vahan data, EV sales in India crossed the 1 million mark during the fiscal year in March 2023, at year-on-year growth of 155%.
As EVs become popular, battery types and their chemical compositions have become a crucial topic. Batteries account for 30-40% of an EV’s value, and the buying criteria of an EV (safety, range and cost) depend on batteries. Two types of batteries are getting popular — LFP (lithium iron phosphate) and NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) — but which one is superior?
Both LFP and NMC are lithium-based, and far superior than lead-acid. But there are differences.
—Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2) is the cathode material used in NMC batteries.
—LFP batteries use lithium ferrous phosphate (LiFePO4) as the cathode material.
But to arrive at the right battery type, it must be judged on safety, durability, performance and sustainability.
Because batteries operate at a high voltage, they can reach high temperatures. LFP batteries have a higher thermal runaway at 270°C, whereas NMC batteries have a lower thermal runaway at 210°C, making the former safer. LFP batteries, as a result, do not catch fire or fail at higher temperatures, which is especially relevant considering climatic conditions in India. Also, LFP batteries have phosphate at the cathode, metal backing as the anode and graphite carbon as the electrode, making them more chemically stable than NMC.
A battery’s capacity degradation over time is a common concern. Compared to LFP batteries, which have more than 3,000 charge cycles and can reach 6,000 if used and maintained properly, NMC batteries have only between 1,000 and 2,000 charge cycles. Moreover, the self-discharge rate of LFP batteries is only 3% per month, but NMC batteries degrade faster at 4% per month. Taking this into account, compared to NMC batteries, LFP batteries can operate at full capacity for more than five years and require less frequent replacement.
Cobalt, which is used as the cathode material in NMC batteries, causes significant environmental issues. Cobalt cathode materials emit hazardous vapours both throughout the battery’s lifespan and after it has been disposed of, making NMC batteries harmful for nature. But since LFP batteries do not contain cobalt, they do not have a similar negative effect on the environment.
All things considered
According to research by the NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute, the Indian market for EV batteries might reach $15 billion by 2030. Therefore, the sector requires advanced battery chemistry, which could not only enhance performance but also reduce the carbon footprint and help India reach its ambitious 2030 objective for EV penetration. In this regard, LFP batteries clearly outperform NMC batteries in terms of sustainability, safety and durability.
The author is managing director, Okaya Electric Vehicles. Views are personal