Stellantis CEO: ‘We must make our own, lighter batteries’

In an interview with the American car magazine Car and Driver, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares says his group has to produce its own batteries. Meanwhile, he also stresses that EVs have to become lighter and batteries more efficient to maintain the expected range of an EV.

The most expensive part of an EV is the lithium-ion cells inside its battery pack. Historically, those cells do not come from the carmaker whose vehicles they power. They come from entirely separate companies in the consumer electronics world, such as Panasonic, LG, Samsung, and BYD. To date, only BYD and Tesla, the world’s two largest EV makers, have built their own cells. Only BYD sells them to other makers as well.

In a roundtable interview last week, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told Car and Driver and other media outlets that he feels his company, too, must make its own batteries. The reasons are simple: cost-competitiveness and making EVs affordable to mass-market buyers.

Those aren’t just buyers in the richest markets, Europe and North America, but also in less developed areas where Stellantis has also substantial sales.

Lighter, please

On the question of why a car maker has to conceive and produce its own batteries, Tavares’ message is clear: “I think we should do that for a very simple reason. The EVs we are making right now need to solve a major issue, which is that you cannot add 1000 pounds or more of additional weight to every car.”

“From my perspective, the big challenge of the next generation of EVs is to make them lighter while using the same amount of energy to protect the range. To do that, Tavares explained, you need to keep the same amount of energy but radically reduce the cost, which requires doubling the energy density of the cells.

“If you do that, you will reduce the number of cells you need, the cost, and the weight. You’ll move from 1000 pounds to perhaps 400 or 500 pounds. So you get affordability and a much lighter car.”

“That reduces your needs for raw materials, battery metals, and minerals, but that’s not enough,” he continued. You need to shift your battery chemistry from scarce to abundant raw materials so you don’t trigger inflation and volatility in a world where China presently has a controlling share of several of these materials.

Asked whether that meant lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cells, Tavares shrugged: “Perhaps it’s that, or it could be something else: some chemistry, eventually, that I don’t know today. But what is clear is that we are in the infancy of this technology.”

Produce your own batteries

How can a car manufacturer with no or far less experience in the matter be competitive with the mainly Chinese and Korean battery giants? “I can tell you what we are doing,” Tavares responds. “I’m not sure it’s going to be enough, but we have our own battery company, called ACC, in which we are the leading shareholder (at 45%) along with Mercedes-Benz and Total Energy. That company has raised almost $5 billion to build four battery gigafactories in Europe.”

Stellantis is also spreading its bets on research into more futuristic battery chemistries. It has invested in three separate startups working on three different chemistries. In January 2022, it invested in Factorial, which works on solid-state cells.

In May 2023, it did the same with Lyten, which is doing the same on the lithium-sulfur battery shown in the recent Chrysler Halcyon Concept electric sedan revealed earlier this month. In January, it added a third company: a sodium-ion battery startup called Tiamat, whose cells use no lithium at all.

Meanwhile, Tavares is far from the only carmaker CEO facing the need to control his own battery destiny for the EVs of the future and how they can compete with Chinese entries.

The Chrysler Halcyon Concept sedan with a lithium-sulfur battery /Stellantis


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