Ford is adding scaling its EV production with two agreements for lithium hydroxide, one of the main ingredients in EV batteries. The first is with Albemarle Corp., which will provide Ford with 100,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium hydroxide, enough for about 3 million EV batteries.
The companies’ contract will run from 2026 through 2030 and executives also are exploring options to develop a closed-loop solution for lithium-ion battery recycling.
Ford’s other deal is with Nemaska Lithium for a supply of lithium products over an 11-year period that includes up to 13,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year. Before that, though, Nemaska will supply Ford with spodumene concentrate. The lithium hydroxide and spodumene will come from its Bécancour and Whabouchi mines, respectively, in Québec.
“We are at a significant moment in Ford’s next industrial revolution for the EV age," said Lisa Drake, vice president of EV industrialization in Ford’s Model e division. "Working with strong global collaborators […] helps us fortify and de-risk our plans for sourcing the key minerals we need to make EVs more accessible for our customers longer-term.”
Leaders of Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and more than a dozen other brands around the world, meanwhile, said they have invested in California-based materials firm Lyten Inc., which is developing a lithium-sulfur battery technology among other things. Terms of the investment, which was made via Stellantis’ year-old $300 million corporate venture fund, aren’t being disclosed.
Eight-year-old Lyten is headquartered in Silicon Valley and working on a range of applications centered on its patented 3D Graphene material that is engineered from natural gas. For Stellantis, the company’s LytCell lithium-sulfur battery promises a carbon footprint 60% smaller than other batteries because it doesn’t use nickel, cobalt or manganese and can be regionally sourced and produced.
“We walked away impressed by the potential of this technology to help drive clean, safe and affordable mobility,” Carlos Tavares, Stellantis’ CEO, said in a statement. “Lyten’s Lithium-Sulfur battery has the potential to be a key ingredient in enabling mass-market EV adoption globally, and their material technology is equally well positioned to help reduce vehicle weight.”
Tavares and his team have laid out EV targets as ambitious as those of their big-auto peers. Among them is having Chrysler’s lineup be fully electric by 2028 and having one of every two Jeep sales be electric in 2030. The company early this year said it had invested in Australian company Element 25 Ltd. as part of a deal to source manganese for battery packs.
Peter Maithel, automotive industry principal at consulting firm Infor, said the announcements highlight the pressure many automotive companies face to secure their lithium supplies now for future EV demand, a trend that is pushing prices higher. Automakers also have to contend with ethical sourcing dilemmas and the availability of lithium, as many mines have yet to scale production to meet the production needs.
“As the lithium rush gains a foothold, it’s important for automakers and suppliers to act quickly and collaboratively to align their volume aspirations with supply constraints and market realities, while simultaneously ensuring that they are strategically positioned to meet current and evolving sustainability mandates,” Maithel said.
In a related move to build out its EV ecosystem, Ford on May 26 announced it has also established a charging partnership with Tesla Motors. Starting in Spring 2024, Ford EV customers will have access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in the United States in Canada, doubling the number of fast-chargers available to them.
Customers currently use the BlueOval Charge Network, North America’s largest public charging network with 84,000 chargers, 10,000 of which are fast-chargers. The addition of the Tesla Superchargers is expected to significantly reduce charge anxiety for Ford customers. Routing to the chargers and billing will take place via FordPass.
“This is great news for our customers who will have unprecedented access to the largest network of fast-chargers in the U.S. and Canada with 12,000+ Tesla Superchargers plus 10,000+ fast-chargers already in the BlueOval Charge Network,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO. “Widespread access to fast-charging is absolutely vital to our growth as an EV brand, and this breakthrough agreement comes as we are ramping up production of our popular Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning and preparing to launch a series of next-generation EVs starting in 2025.”
The Ford F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit vehicles will be fitted with a Tesla-developed adapter, allowing them to use the V3 Superchargers. Beginning in 2025, Ford will equip EVs with a NACS charge port, eliminating the need for adapters. Additionally, Ford dealers will add nearly 2,000 public-facing fast-chargers and locations to the BlueOval Charge Network by early 2024.