In a sign that the electric vehicle race is heating up, Ford announced that it's expanding its battery supply chain. One of its new deals includes an investment in the controversial Rhyolite Ridge mine in Nevada.
The U.S. automaker said on Thursday that it will have enough battery supplies to bring 600,000 EVs to market per year by the end of 2023. That would get the company on the way toward meeting its goal of building 2 million EVs annually by late 2026.
The company said it has reached a major agreement with the Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, which is the world’s largest battery-pack supplier. Ford will also buy from LG Energy Solutions and up its buy from its existing partner SK On.
The company also signed a binding off-take agreement to purchase lithium from the Rhyolite Ridge mine, a proposed open pit lithium mine in Nevada. The project is controversial because it could potentially destroy a rare buckwheat plant that Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The project reflects growing tensions between conservation and local environmental damage caused by mining critical minerals versus the climate crisis and need for electrifying everything ASAP. Ford has not commented publicly on why it chose to source lithium from this project or if it plans to seek out critical minerals from other controversial locations.
The expansion of Ford’s battery sources also involves diversifying the types of batteries it uses. The company said it would expand the use of lithium iron phosphate battery cells in addition to the nickel cobalt manganese cells it currently relies on. These LFP batteries could provide a lower-cost option for Ford’s growing EV fleet.
Ford’s announcement is an example of just how dramatically automakers’ priorities have shifted. The company's electrified versions of the Mustang and F-150 have proven popular; Ford has already sold 17,675 Mustang Mach Es and 2,296 F-150 Lightnings and demand shows no sign of slowing down given high gas prices. The ambitious EV plans of Ford and many of the industry’s giants means a stable battery supply chain is a major competitive advantage.
This comes as the federal government also makes investments in the domestic battery supply chain in a bid to avoid reliance on China as the U.S. transitions to EVs.
In all the talk of Ford’s push to secure its electric future, the company did not mention a recent report from Bloomberg that the company is anticipating layoffs, to the tune of up to 8,000 employees. Many of those layoffs are expected in the recently created Ford Blue unit tasked with keeping its legacy internal combustion business going.