GM’s Strategic EV Move: Less China, More Affordable

General Motors Invests in Mitra Chem in Push for LFP Batteries for Affordable EVs

The race to produce affordable electric vehicles to rival market leaders is heating up. Not wanting to be left behind, General Motors has participated in a $60 million funding round on a startup working on a new version of electric batteries. Mitra Chem is a California-based startup that is working on a new set of batteries based on lithium iron and phosphate (LFP) that are proving to be cheaper than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

LFP Batteries

LFP batteries are becoming increasingly popular as they do not require expensive cobalt and nickel minerals. Therefore, they tend to cost much less, which could allow General Motors and other automakers to develop affordable electric vehicles. Tesla, Rivian and Ford are some of the automakers using the new battery set on their affordable electric vehicles.

General Motors investing in Mitra Chem should give the company exclusive access to the much more affordable batteries that should allow it to develop affordable EVs for the mass market. In addition, it would be in a solid position to take on Tesla, which continues to dominate the segment with an array of EVs for every market niche.

Nevertheless, LFP batteries have one big disadvantage. Their lower power density compared to other batteries means they come with a limited range on a single charge. In this case, automakers will have to implant many LFP battery cells in cars to match the range of Lithium-ion batteries. The downside to adding more cells is that it increases the vehicle’s weight.

Another major challenge associated with LFP batteries is that Chinese companies currently make them. Given the tussle between Beijing and Washington over various technologies deemed as a matter of national security, automakers could struggle to secure the much-needed supplies to produce affordable electric vehicles in masses.

Securing Battery Supplies

Nevertheless, General Motors is banking on the fact that Mitra Chem is working on a new variation of LFP batteries that adds manganese to the battery’s cathodes to increase the battery’s power density. The addition does not in any way affect the cost advantage that the batteries have been associated with

Consequently, General Motors’ vice president, charged with speeding up electric vehicle rollout, believes Mitra Chem could have the key to helping the company achieve its targets. Likewise, the automaker is increasingly stepping up its focus on potential breakthroughs that could allow it to ramp up production.

The investment in Mitra Chem comes on the heels of General Motors investing $650 million in Lithium Americas as part of an effort to develop a mine in Nevada. The investment is part of the automaker’s push to secure the supply chain for key components in producing electric vehicle batteries. The investment comes when the company is looking to bring a litany of electric sedans, SUVs, crossovers, and trucks to market in the next two years.

It joins the likes of Tesla and Ford, which have also invested in a number of miners as they look to lock in lithium supplies highly needed to develop electric batteries. Every automaker wants to avoid being caught off-guard, as was the case at the height of the chip shortage in 2020.

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