RJ Scaringe, CEO of Rivian, presents to the world his company’s all-electric R1T pickup and all-electric R1S SUV at the Los Angeles Motor Show, California, November 27, 2018.

Mike Blake Reuters

Electric vehicle maker Rivian plans to use new types of batteries in its electric trucks, vans and SUVs, the company said Thursday in a shareholder letter for the fourth quarter of 2021. These include items made with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry for their standard-level cars, and high-nickel chemistry for their longer-range vehicles.

LFP battery cells do not require nickel or cobalt, which can be expensive or difficult to obtain. They are also generally considered more stable but less energy-intensive than the nickel-cobalt-alumina elements used by Tesla and other automakers in electric cars. Although they can be completely discharged and charged without damaging the cell over time, LFP batteries typically do not provide the same range as NCA and other types.

At the same time, chemical batteries with a high nickel content are more energy-intensive, they can be charged faster and provide more miles in one charge when packing the same or less weight made with these elements.

Founder and CEO of Rivian RJ Scaringe explained during a call about earnings on Thursday after hours that the company and its suppliers face various constraints due to the Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their impact on global supply chains. He said Rivian “looked at one of the most challenging supply chain conditions the automotive industry has ever seen.”

Scaringe said the first LFP battery was delivered through a partner he did not name, but said the company “is also developing its own chemical batteries and battery manufacturing capabilities.”

Rivian’s commercial vehicles, such as the EDV-700 he developed for Amazon, should have “similar daily range capabilities to LFP chemistry, and this chemistry provides significant cost savings for us,” Rivian wrote in a letter to shareholders.

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In its consumer electric cars, including the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, Rivian expects to drive more than 260 miles with a standard LFP-based battery.

In October 2021, Tesla announced plans to switch to LFP battery packs for standard batteries, and both companies are following in the footsteps of Chinese manufacturers of electric cars and batteries. The technology is commonly promoted in China, and according to Roskill battery researcher, about 95% of LFP cathode production is based in China. Eliminating cobalt means reducing dependence on suppliers, where forced labor is still a concern. Cobalt mining is still largely concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is linked to human rights abuses and child labor.

Rivian aims to produce 25,000 battery electric vehicles in 2022 and deliver the 55,000th car in 2023.

Shares of the company fell more than 12% after Thursday after the company missed Wall Street earnings expectations for the fourth quarter and forecast a modest increase in car production in 2022.

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