In May, concerned about several fires in electric cars the MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) of the Chinese government issued new safety standards that will come into force on January 1, 2021.
One new rule for passenger electric cars requires that in case of thermal runaway of a battery cell, it should cause no fire or explosion for at least five minutes, giving drivers and passengers enough time to escape.
Ternary battery cells (NCM/NCA) make extremely hard for battery packs to comply with this safety rule, so it seems inevitable that most Chinese automakers will shift to safer chemistries – that are also cobalt-free -, such as LFP, LFMP or LNMO before this year ends.
Some important Chinese battery cell makers like BYD or Guoxuan were already focused on producing LFP (LiFePO4), now it’s time for CATL to do the same.
However, this doesn’t mean that CATL can’t keep producing NCM battery cells to supply foreign automakers such as PSA.
Anyway, now I’m curious to know what Tesla will do in China next year. Will it make all its electric cars cobalt-free with LFP batteries from CATL?
There’s the possibility that Tesla can keep selling its Model 3 LR with NCM 811 cells in China, because Tesla does have the ability of making safe battery packs with inherently unsafe cells by using a “steel and ceramic firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment.” The firewall could be enough to comply with MIIT’s new 5 minutes rule…
However, most Chinese automakers will probably move to LFP, instead of having the trouble of trying to make somewhat safe but extremely complex battery packs with NCM/NCA cells. Why complicate? There’s no future in EV batteries that use cobalt anyway…