VSPC – producing Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) for electric vehicle batteries

VSPC is an Australian materials technology company established in 1999 to develop and commercialise a unique manufacturing process to produce complex metal oxides at the nanoscale.

The versatile process produces metal oxides that are superior compared to competitor materials in terms of complexity, reproducibility and small size. This small size of particles and corresponding high surface area of the cathode material shortens the distance over which lithium ions must travel, making for a powerful battery capable of high-speed power delivery.

The degree of flexibility of VSPC’s process for chemical doping and carbon coating to enhance conductivity while retaining all the benefits of the nanoscale product is unprecedented. Both of these steps can be readily introduced into the existing VSPC process.

The company’s primary focus is the development of LFP for use in safer, more environmentally friendly, rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles. Depending on what properties are needed, VSPC can make LFP, LFMP (Lithium Iron Magnesium Phosphate) or Li-doped LFP and LFMP.

The use of LFP for Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) is the first priority product.  The drive towards electrification of passenger vehicles is twofold. The first is driven by sustainability issues and the limited global supply of oil. The second is drvien by climate change and concerns over air polution and greenhouse gas emissions. A battery electric vehicle has zero fossil fuel consumption, and depending on the source of the electricity, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% or even 100% if renewable sources such as solar or wind power is used.

Other wide-ranging applications of the metal oxides include exhaust emissions catalyst, wet oxidation catalysts, coatings and pigments and solar technology.

Market opportunity

The potential market opportunity for VSPC’s technology is significant. The total market for lithium ion batteries was US$7.5 billion in 2009 and predicted to grow to US$32.5 billion by 2018 (Source: Takeshita 26th international battery meeting, Florida 2009). The largest projected growth is in the electric vehicle sector which increases from almost zero in 2009 to US$18 billion by 2018.

Growth in demand for LFP powder – projections for 20201
Type of electric vehicle Hybrids Full EVs Total EVs
Number (based on 80m total vehicles) 28.08 m 7.92 m 36 m
No. with Lithium Ion batteries 19.66 m 7.92 m
No. with LFP batteries (90%) 17.7 m 7.1 m 24.8 m
LFP powder required (tonnes)* 177,000 284,000 461,000

* based on 10g/cell; 10kg/hybrid; 40kg/EV
1 The comeback of the electric car / how real, how soon and what must happen next, Boston Consultancy Group focus, January 2009