NMC versus NCA: The history and outlook of nickel-rich cathodes

May 08, 2019 | Case Study

2017 was a landmark year for EVs; both GM and Tesla started deliveries of their respective mass-market EVs, the Bolt and the Model 3. Both vehicles offered more than 200 miles of range and promised to be below $35,000 within a few years of introduction – both seen as crucial figures of merit for broad EV adoption. While both EVs seem similar on paper, a crucial distinction lies in the cell chemistry chosen by each company: GM developed its NMC 622 with its supplier LG Chem, and Tesla continued using NCA from its cell manufacturing partner Panasonic. The reasons for these different cathode choices stem from the fact that Tesla approached the mass market from a luxury vehicle segment starting with its 2012 Model S, and NCA was one of the few high-energy cathodes available during development, while GM always remained focused on a low-cost EV platform first and had licensed NMC from Argonne National Laboratory early on. These differences in approaches led to the automakers choosing different technologies, which provides a valuable lesson for other vehicle manufacturers. 

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