After three years of industry speculation, luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz confirmed it will power its new range of electric vehicles (EVs) with the Chinese-developed BYD Blade lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery.
The announcement came when the Stuttgart-based automotive giant revealed its CLA sedan EV concept car at the International Mobility Show in Munich.
Mercedes is one of several major car brands, including Ford, Toyota and Hyundai, that have opted to equip their EV fleet with the Blade battery pack.
The decision to switch from nickel manganese cobalt (ternary lithium or NMC) batteries would help reduce manufacturing and raw material costs and boost profit-making potential, said Ola Kallenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz. It’s the element’s ability to regulate battery temperatures that has made it extremely popular in the EV and electronics industry.
More than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt extras are concentrated inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, contributing to its steep price. However, cobalt mining is marred by significant human rights abuses, including unsafe worksites and child labour, creating a great deal of controversy for automotive manufacturers linked with the practice.
While LFP batteries have a lower energy density than their NMC counterparts, they have cheaper raw material and production costs, resulting in several prominent EV brands, including Elon Musk’s Tesla, transitioning to them.
In May 2023, Tesla’s Berlin-Brandenburg ‘gigafactory’ announced the first Model Y prototype when BYD’s Blade battery rolled off the production line. Two-thirds of Tesla’s fleet, including the ultra-popular Model 3 and Y, will sport LFP battery packs, with the remaining third using NMC power units, according to Musk.
Mercedes-Benz and BYD have enjoyed nearly 13 years of cooperation, the two first teaming up in 2010 when they established a new energy vehicle (NEV) joint venture under the Denza brand.
Now, after years of rumours, the pair of automotive heavyweights are collaborating again. According to Mercedes-Benz insiders, the new CLA EV will use the company’s 800-volt MMA platform and feature BYD’s Blade battery.
Mercedes has reportedly nicknamed the concept EV ‘the one-litre-car’, a reference to the vehicle’s exceptionally efficient energy consumption of 12 kilowatt-hours per 100 km. The CLA EV has an estimated range of 750 kilometres per charge, according to the NEV website, Electrek.
Prospective buyers have a wait on their hands as the CLA will only enter production close to 2025. Mercedes also confirmed it would launch a compact, electrified version of their popular G-class SUVs on its quest to break into the EV market proper.