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Why are lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries so expensive?

The market for LiFePO4 batteries is not limited to PV storage and EVs. Other uses run from electric lawnmowers, power hand tools, and cell phones. Current battery technology uses ten times as much lithium as newer thin film prototypes. When thin-film and solid state lithium batteries reach maturity, and old cells wear out and are recycled into ten times as many new cells of similar capacity the price will likely drop.

LiNiMnCoO2 has been the most popular chemistry for EV’s and power tools. Their cost is mostly determined by the Co used not the lithium. Manufacturers are reducing the Co used with newer technology.

Demand is intense and that demand is now keeping the price of batteries high.

If recent progress with flow redox batteries continues to develop, then the demand for massive stationary lithium battery assemblies to build utility scale (GWh sized) storage facilities will migrate from lithium and decrease demand. The present use of vanadium for flow batteries will be replaced by chemistry using cheaper and more abundant materials. There are already working cells that use less corrosive and cheaper materials. That will free up lithium for portable and mobile devices that are not appropriate for flow batteries. Redox flow batteries have a distinct advantage over other batteries for long term storage (more than hours or days). A flow battery’s fluids will not self discharge if stored in the charged state for many months.

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