Manganese has the potential to be the “next major metal” amid growing interest in lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP), according to Ken Hoffman, co-head of EV battery materials research group at McKinsey & Company.

While the demand for battery materials will be “absolutely immense,” there will be high volatility, with the global battery chemistry evolving continuously, Hoffman told the LME Metals Seminar 2023 attended by Kallanish on Monday.

Currently, ​​lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries can store 150-180 watts of energy/kilogram (Wh/kg). In contrast, high-nickel batteries, presently the “best in class commercially” in terms of energy density, offer 280-300 Wh/kg.

Over 20,000 EV consumers McKinsey surveyed across the globe continue to maintain that range and recharge time is what they seek from their EVs. As nickel batteries provide the furthest range, many of the gigafactories being built in the West are using high-nickel chemistries, Hoffman explained. 

“However, there are many components to a battery system and there are a lot of changes that are going to occur,” he said. One such change in the past year is the LMFP chemistry, the battery technology between LFP and high-nickel chemistries.

According to Hoffman, the manganese market is almost ten times bigger than the nickel market, with the former being “relatively inexpensive.” To put things in perspective, a high-quality manganese today can be bought for less than $2,000 per tonne, relative to the $20,000 for nickel, he explained. Moreover, LMFP can provide a density close to 250 Wh/kg – close to that provided by high-nickel batteries.

While the LFP battery is “quite a bit behind,” giving 50% less density, and in turn, 50% less range, LMFP provides a density close to high-nickel batteries at price points “very close to the lowest cost battery on the market”, which is LFP. “The big movement this year is LMFP batteries,” he adds.

That said, Hoffman cautions that LMFP batteries are in no way “perfect” and suffer from low cycles.

“However, the advances we’ve seen in Chinese battery producers are getting us closer and even exceeding the minimum demands of the Western OEMs, which is 1,500 cycles. Some of the LMFP batteries are promising 2,000 cycles. That’s really exciting times in terms of getting cars that are less and less expensive, go longer and longer, and can be recharged pretty close to what you can do with your petrol car today,” Hoffman concludes.