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Electric Cars

More Affordable Batteries Coming for Ford Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning

There are two kinds of EV users: the ones who want big power and range and need a battery that can handle it; and the ones who travel the same short distances most days and just want something affordable, quick to charge, and reliable. Ford today announced it is adding a second battery chemistry to give buyers choice and to get more EVs on the road faster, whittling down the long waiting lists for its in-demand EVs. Starting this spring, Ford will add a second and more affordable battery that will replace the standard battery in the lower trim level of the Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.  It will be offered in the lower trim of the Ford F-150 Lightning electric full-size pickup next year.

The vehicles should qualify for tax credits: $7,500 for leased vehicles and $3,750 for those who purchase, and access to the credits under the Inflation Reduction Act led to the decision to make the batteries in Michigan instead of a site in Canada or Mexico, Ford VP of Industrialization for Model E Lisa Drake said. Current EVs use nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) batteries and Ford offers a choice of a standard or extended-range battery in the Mach-E and F-150 Lightning.

New Batteries to be Made in Michigan

The plan is to add a second, lower-cost, battery chemistry to the mix: lithium iron phosphate or LFP batteries, and Ford will make them at a new $3.5 billion assembly plant in Marshall, Michigan. The basic difference: NCM batteries have a higher density, making them the choice for the more powerful Mach-E GT, or the Lightning owner who travels long distances and needs to tow and haul. To preserve the life of these batteries, they should not be charged above 80 percent.

Conversely, LFP batteries are for the many retail customers who drive the same route consistently, averaging about 32 miles a day in a Mach-E or 28 miles daily in a Lightning, usually in temperatures above freezing, and who want to charge the vehicle to 100 percent every night. Or there’s the commercial customer with a short but set route, who charges at the depot every night. The batteries are exceptionally durable and work best when charged to the max. LFP batteries are more affordable in part because they don’t use nickel, cobalt, or manganese, all rare materials that are high cost and in high demand.

Entry-Level Models to Get Affordable Battery

Ford will start putting LFP batteries in the Select trim of the Mach-E SUV this spring as the standard-range option, and add the lower-cost and range battery to the SLT trim of the Lightning pickup truck next year. The move is not just to meet Ford’s battery needs for the EV onslaught of vehicles to come, but to meet the growing need for EVs that are more affordable and quicker to charge, and to get more electric vehicles into customer hands faster.

To help scale things up, Ford announced plans for the new battery plant in its home state. It will be operational in 2026 and employ 2,500 people. BlueOval Battery Park Michigan will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford, working with CATL, a major battery company. Virginia had been in the running for the plant but pulled out of the race because CATL is a Chinese company.

Chinese Collaboration and Expertise

The plant will be run by Ford but use equipment, tech, and expertise from CATL. Drake says the automaker is not concerned about political backlash given strained relations with China and the contract with CATL should protect against fears of China blocking the tech from coming to the U.S.

Ford is already spending $11.4 billion on a new EV assembly plant in Stanton, Tennessee, to make next-generation electric F-Series trucks (the current Ford F-150 Lightning is made at the Rouge Complex in Michigan), and three new battery plants at the Blue Oval City complex in Tennessee as well as Glendale, Kentucky. The BlueOvalSK battery cell plants are in partnership with SK Innovation.

BlueOvalSK in Tennessee has a capacity of 43 GWh per year and will be operational in 2025. The Kentucky battery manufacturing complex will have two plants, each with a capacity of 43 GWh per year. The first plant will be ready in 2025, followed by the sister plant a year later. Collectively, the three plants provide a total of 130 GWh of capacity, enough to power more than 1 million vehicles a year. The Michigan plant adds 35 GWh, and another plant is being added in Turkey.

Big Money Being Spent on EVs

Ford is spending $50 billion on electric vehicles by 2026 and has set global targets of building 600,000 electric vehicles annually by the end of this year, planning to expand that capacity to 2 million EVs by 2026, with its eyes dead set on Tesla. Farley has said he expects 40-50 percent of global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030.

General Motors is spending $35 billion on electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025, including $6.5 on Michigan plants, and is building four battery assembly plants with partner LG Energy Solution. The Ultium Cells LLC plants in Lordstown, Ohio, Spring Hill, Tennessee, Lansing, Michigan, and a fourth location still to be announced (and potentially with a different partner) will have more than 160 GWh of initial capacity. Stellantis has announced plans for battery plants in Kokomo, Indiana, as well as Windsor, Ontario. A third site has yet to be announced.

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