Tesla Files to Sell Model 3 in China With Low-Cost Battery

Tesla has filed to sell the Model 3 in China — with a new kind of lithium iron phosphate battery cell — according to a government website.
Brad Bergan

Tesla recently filed for permission from the Chinese government to sell a novel version of the Model 3 with less expensive lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, according to documents posted on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website.


Tesla filed for China's permission to sell new Model 3

Tesla initially adopted a proprietary version of the energy-dense NCA battery cell to build into its electric vehicles — an unconventional decision among others in the industry who use NCM cells.

Reports suggest Tesla may switch to NCM battery cells for its Model 3 vehicles built in China at Gigafactory Shanghai. The China-built all-electric vehicles are Tesla's first without featuring Panasonic batteries, reports Electrek.

Tesla contracted CATL and LG Chem to manufacture batteries for the Model 3 vehicles constructed at its new Shanghai Gigafactory.

Earlier in 2020, reports suggested that Tesla may use CATL's lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries — less popular in the automotive industry and typically used in various Chinese electric vehicles due to lower-energy density (and cost).

Since Tesla's successful application with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for permission to sell a new Model 3 with LFP batteries, the forthcoming vehicles are published in the Ministry's Road Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Enterprises and Products page, according to Electrek.

Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Tesla
The filing suggests the Model 3's specs remain the same despite the new LFP batteries. Source: Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

Advantages of LFP batteries for new Model 3

The LFP batteries aren't without advantages. They don't use cobalt — an expensive and at times controversial mineral. Tesla has previously hinted at phasing-out cobalt in its batteries, and it's relevant that the company's NCA battery cells already use less cobalt than most other battery cells with similar chemistry.

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The main drawback of LFP batteries is a lower energy density, but CATL — widely thought to be Tesla's supplier — has improved on LFP energy density and lifespan.

LFP batteries are also considered safer should a serious problem arise — they burn slow, unlike other lithium iron battery chemical makeups. There are pros and cons, but Tesla continues to make moves on its way to becoming a global supplier of high-quality electric vehicles.

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