Daimler Trucks shifts battery strategy to avoid competition with cars

HANOVER, Germany — Daimler Trucks is migrating its battery chemistry to a formula that eliminates nickel and cobalt to improve durability and reduce competition with the passenger car business for scarce materials.

Daimler will gradually move its vehicles to lithium iron phosphate batteries it has developed in partnership with China’s CATL. Iron and phosphate cost far less and are easier to mine than other battery materials.

“They are both cheap and plentiful almost everywhere and will definitely help to reduce the pressure on the battery supply chain as adoption grows,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Guidehouse Insights.

Daimler, the German parent of Freightliner and Western Star truck brands, announced the strategy as it debuted a longer-haul electric truck for the European market at IAA Transportation 2022 on Monday.

“My fear is if the entire passenger car market, not just Tesla or the high-end cars, moves to batteries, there will be a fight,” Martin Daum, Daimler Truck’s CEO, told Automotive News. “And a fight always means higher pricing.”

Eliminating nickel and cobalt, the rarest elements going into vehicle batteries, reduces the cost, he said. Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells cost about 30 percent less than nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) cells, according to BloombergNEF.

“The much lower cost, superior durability and safety make LFP a very appealing prospect for many use cases, especially commercial vehicles,” Abuelsamid said.

Freightliner and other Daimler brands now use NMC chemistry that relies on lithium and manganese in addition to nickel and cobalt.

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