Will Sodium ion Battery Change the Batteries Industry?

After the concept of sodium ion battery was introduced, it attracted widespread attention. If sodium-ion batteries are successfully mass-produced, they will be used on a large scale. It is possible to replace some industries of lithium batteries.

In 2022, the cost of lithium raw materials increased. Although lithium resources are unevenly distributed, lithium is actually found everywhere on Earth, but the extraction and refining process is slow.

According to Trading Economics data, the price of Lithium Carbonate has risen from 39,000 CNY/T to 591,500 CNY/T in 2020. Prices did not fall back until 2023.

In terms of raw materials, sodium has an absolute advantage over lithium and is called the battery of the future. This is why there is an increasing demand for the launch of sodium ion batteries around the world.

What is the history of Sodium ion Batteris?

In 1979, the French scientist Armand proposed the concept of the “rocking chair battery”. The research on sodium-ion batteries had already begun. However, in the 1990s, lithium-ion batteries showed great commercial value and gradually began to be practical. Therefore, the development of sodium ion batteries research has largely stagnated.

Since lithium is currently the lightest metal and the third lightest element, only heavier than hydrogen and helium, lithium batteries are very lightweight and convenient for carrying and moving devices.

Lithium-ion batteries are used in most mobile phones and laptops, smart electronic products, electric vehicles, home solar systems, industrial and commercial battery energy storage systems, outdoor power supplies, in the world to provide power.

Many manufacturers are optimizing the production of lithium batteries. The power supply performance and efficiency of lithium batteries have been greatly improved.

Lithium battery technology is making breakthroughs all the time, and production costs are also declining during the development period (except for 2022).

With the development of electric vehicles and the energy storage industry, the demand for batteries is increasing, and the world is concerned about whether cheaper and safer batteries can emerge.

Until 2000, with the discovery of hard carbon anode materials, sodium-ion batteries were developed again. As the price of lithium raw materials has been pushed to the peak, many manufacturers and battery research institutions have returned to sodium ion batteries.

Although the popularity of sodium-ion batteries has revived, only excellent improvements can push lithium batteries off the peak.

What is a Sodium-ion battery?

Sodium-ion battery, referred to as NIB or SIB, is a rechargeable battery that mainly uses sodium ions (Na+) as the charge carrier, similar to lithium-ion batteries (LIB), in that the positive electrode material uses sodium instead of lithium. Sodium and lithium are in the same column on the periodic table of chemical elements and so have similar chemical properties.

Sodium-ion battery Working principle

Working principle

The working principle of sodium ion batteries is similar to that of lithium-ion batteries. They are composed of an anode, cathode, and electrolyte.

Cathode made of sodium material, anode (not necessarily containing sodium element), electrolyte (liquid electrolyte containing dissociated sodium salt in polar protic or aprotic solvent).

When a sodium-ion battery is charged, electrons travel through an external circuit and sodium ions travel through the electrolyte, moving from the cathode to the anode. The discharge process is opposite to that of charging.

Sodium ion battery vs Lithium ion battery

How Sodium-Ion Batteries May Challenge Lithium (Video from the Internet, in case of infringement, please contact to delete)

Will Sodium ion batteries replacing lithium batteries?

From the analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of sodium-ion batteries, we can know whether sodium ion batteries can replace lithium batteries in various applications.

Advantage of Sodium ion batteries

The most obvious advantage is that the price of sodium raw materials is much lower than that of lithium. The price of sodium hydroxide, a common sodium-ion battery precursor, is less than $800 per ton, and sometimes even lower. Materials costs for sodium-ion batteries are expected to be about one-third cheaper than equivalent lithium-ion batteries.

Sodium-ion batteries do not need to be produced in combination with other high-priced raw materials. For example, lithium, cobalt, nickel, etc. are the cathode materials of Ternary (NMC) lithium batteries. In addition to price, the production of these lithium battery metal raw materials will also cause environmental pollution problems.

Moreover, sodium is very abundant in nature, and almost inexhaustible sodium can be extracted from salt water and seawater. Sodium-ion batteries are also called salt batteries. Lithium must be extracted from rock or brine, but battery-grade sodium hydroxide is readily produced during the electrolytic conversion of salt to chlorine.

Temperature performance is good, Sodium-ion batteries are safer and perform well down to –20 °C without risk of thermal runaway.

Learn more about another future battery: Why Develop Solid State Battery?

Shortcomings of Sodium ion batteries

Of course, sodium ion batteries are not perfect, their number of charge and discharge cycles is less than lithium-ion batteries.

Due to the larger sodium ion radius, there are more stringent requirements for structural stability and battery performance, which is also a major difficulty in the development of sodium-ion batteries.

The Achilles heel of sodium ion batteries is that they can only store about two-thirds of the energy of comparably sized lithium-ion batteries. This means that a sodium ion battery that stores the same amount of energy will be heavier and larger than a lithium-ion battery.

Sodium ion battery energy density development forecast

Sodium ion battery energy density
Energy density of lithium ion and sodium ion batteries, from Casey Crownhart, MIT Technology Review

It can reach similar voltage to lithium batteries, and its volume and energy density can reach the level of early low-end lithium batteries. According to the expected plans and mass production plans of major manufacturers, the energy density of sodium-ion batteries will reach about 145Wh/KG. It can be seen that sodium-ion batteries are extremely competitive.

The application of Sodium Battery

The very nature of sodium has established that sodium batteries are inexpensive and safe. The application scenarios of sodium-ion batteries are industrial and commercial energy storage, low-speed electric vehicles, two-wheeled vehicles, backup power, stationary equipment power supply, electric vehicle charging stations, all the lead-acid battery use scenarios and so on. Once mass production will quickly replace lead-acid batteries.

The electric car battery has a high requirement for power, energy density, volume and range. In this regard sodium-ion batteries are obviously not as good as lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles have sodium ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries loaded at the same time, however it is impossible not to use lithium-ion batteries.

The use of lithium iron phosphate instead of lithium ternary in electric vehicles can improve safety to some extent as low-cost cobalt- and nickel-free versions of lithium batteries are being advanced.

Sodium ion battery will not replace Lithium ion battery completely. Sodium ion battery have the potential to serve as a supplement to the battery, reducing the dependence on lithium resources, also alleviating some of the supply chain pressure of lithium iron phosphate and new lithium-ion batteries containing nickel, manganese and cobalt. Therefore, to relieve the shortage of lithium resources, which led to the development of energy storage batteries is limited.

Comparison of different types of battery

Sodium ion batteryLithium ion batteryLead–acid battery
Cost per watt-hour of capacityPromotion period: 0.5-0.7rmb/Wh;Development Period:0.3-0.5 rmb/Wh;Explosion period 0.3 rmb/Wh or less0.57~0.65rmb/Wh(LFP industry average)0.2 rmb/Wh(Battery recycling included)
volumetric energy density250wh/L350wh/L 85 W·h/L
mass energy density145wh/kg160-180wh/kg50-70wh/kg
Cycle life at 80% DOD1000-50003000-6000500
SafetyLow risk for liquid batteries, high risk for sodium ions in carbon batteriesHigh RiskMiddle Risk
Raw MaterialAbundance of raw materials -relatively environmentally friendlyScarcer lithium resources -some damage to natural ecosystems during miningAbundance of raw materials-lead is toxic and has a high ecological impact if not handled properly
Temperature range−40 °C to 80 °CAcceptable temperature range:−20℃~ 60℃。Best using temperture:15°C ~ 35°C−20 °C to 50 °C

It can be concluded that sodium ion batteries have huge advantages and completely outperform lead-acid batteries, and NPP, as a manufacturer of lead-acid batteries and lithium batteries, is working on the development of sodium ion batteries.

The sodium battery may not save a lot compare to LFP battery at the first stage

What’s the difference between the manufacturing equipment of Sodium Battery and Lithium Battery

According to the information disclosed by various enterprises, the production of sodium-ion batteries can basically follow the already mature and applied lithium battery production equipment. There is no major difference in the key processes of each link, and capacity deployment can be achieved quickly. Sodium batteries and lithium batteries are similar in structure, but the materials are different, so the production process can basically use the same set of equipment.

Industrial Supply Chain

In terms of key raw materials such as anode, cathode, diaphragm, electrolyte, collector and other key raw materials, it is necessary to develop new materials and build a brand new industrial chain system as it involves brand new sodium-based materials.

Sodium-ion batteries may initially be more expensive and it is expected that, through manufacturing efficiencies, scale and technology development, the cost/price will come down in the short term. As the technology matures and the manufacturing process is refined, production costs will remain stable over the long-term production process

Commercialisation development

Read more:

Natron Energy(U.S.)

Colin Wessells founded Natron Energy in 2012 as a PhD student at Stanford University. Natron Energy produces sodium-ion batteries that use Prussian Blue compounds along the lines of cathode and anode materials, and a safe aqueous electrolyte for the electrolyte.

Its patented Prussian Blue electrodes are able to embed and de-embed sodium ions faster and more frequently, and have lower internal resistance.Natron’s sodium-ion batteries claim to be able to achieve virtually zero strain during charging/discharging, with a tenfold increase in cycling speed and a cycle life of over 50,000 cycles. This is at the considerable high end of other sodium-ion battery products.

Faradion Limited(UK)

Faradion was founded in 2011 by Dr Jerry Barker, Dr Chris Wright and Ashwin Kumaraswamy to develop and bring to market sodium ion technology. With a total of 21 patents covering sodium-ion technology, Faradion develops sodium-ion batteries with organic liquid electrolytes.

CALT(China)

In July 2021, CALT, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, announced that it would be completed and start mass production in 2023, and sodium-ion batteries instantly became the brightest star sought after by the energy storage and investment communities.

Although CALT has given a clear timetable, the industrialisation of sodium-ion batteries still needs to overcome the difficulties of technological performance, industrial chain, mass production and cost.

The first generation of sodium-ion batteries from CALT has core parameters including:

  1. The energy density of the electric core alone is as high as 160Wh/kg;
  2. Charging for 15 minutes at room temperature, the charge can reach more than 80%;
  3. A discharge retention rate of over 90% even in a -20°C low temperature environment;
  4. System integration efficiency can reach over 80%;
  5. Thermal stability far exceeds the safety requirements of national standards.

Continuous optimisation efforts never stop, and the R&D goal of CALT second-generation sodium-ion battery is to increase the energy density to 200Wh/kg.

On 16 April 2023, CALT announced via its official microblog, “CALT sodium-ion batteries debut on Chery models”. On the same day, Chery Automobile also announced the joint establishment of battery brand ENER-Q with CALT.

CATL has announced that its sodium-ion batteries will be used in automaker Chery’s upcoming products.

Altris AB (Switzerland)

In April 2022, Altris AB, a sodium-ion battery company headquartered in Uppsala, raised EUR 9.6 million in Series A financing. The funding ensured that Altris scaled up production of Fennac, the company’s innovative battery cathode material, to 2,000 metric tons, resulting in 1 GWh of sustainable batteries and further research and development of sodium-ion batteries.

Fennac (“Prussian white” as it is often called among battery researchers) is a framework material composed of sodium, iron carbon and nitrogen (NaxFe[Fe(CN)6], x>1.9).

The large pores within the material are capable of trapping and storing a range of atoms or molecules, making the compound very interesting for a range of applications. Utilizing iron as an electron source and completely filling the material with sodium, the theoretical capacity is 170 mAh/g with an average voltage output of 3.2 V vs. sodium.

HiNa Battery Technology Co., Ltd (China)

In February 2023, at the National Sodium Electricity Industry Conference, the cooperation participants, HiNa + JAC + Huawei, launched sodium-ion battery products and announced the realization of sodium electricity loading on the Silhouette E10X (A00 class), which is the first time that domestic sodium batteries are actually loaded on a vehicle.

The sodium-ion battery, with a single-vehicle range of 252km, has a battery capacity of 25kWh, a cell energy density of 140Wh/kg, and a system energy density of 120Wh/kg, supporting 3-4C fast charging, with a fast-charging charging time of 15-20 minutes, which basically meets the needs of daily transportation.

BYD (China)

The signing ceremony of the strategic cooperation agreement between Huaihai Holding Group and BYD FinDreams Battery was held at BYD headquarters in Shenzhen. A sodium-ion battery production base will be built in China, with the goal of jointly building the world’s largest supplier of sodium-electric systems for microcars.

Previously Internet rumors BYD electric car seagull using sodium ion batteries loaded that proved to be rumors, the model announced actually loaded with lithium iron phosphate blade battery.

According to Electrek, BYD (Build Your Dreams) is second only to Tesla in global electric vehicle sales and one of the top battery manufacturers. Huaihai is a leading manufacturer of small electric vehicles ranging from scooters to cars.

Pylontech (China)

In March 2023, Pylontech received a certificate from TÜV Rheinland regarding sodium-ion batteries, which is the world’s first sodium-ion battery certificate issued by TÜV Rheinland.

TIAMAT (France)

In June 2023, Zenergy and France’s TIAMAT reached in-depth cooperation on the promotion of sodium-ion battery research and development and signed a strategic cooperation agreement at its headquarters in Changshu.

The cooperation will promote the joint development of sodium-ion batteries for power, energy storage and other new application scenarios, and collaborate to create more stable, safe, high-performance and cost-effective sodium-ion battery product solutions.

NPP  (China)

On March 9, 2023, Mr. Teng Fei, Chairman and General Manager of NPP Power Co., Ltd. signed an agreement with South China Normal University (SCNU) to establish an R&D center for green and low-cost sodium-ion batteries, to carry out research and development of basic and production technologies related to sodium-ion batteries, including cathode and anode materials, electrolyte materials, and battery manufacturing.

Failure Cases

Aquion Energy ( America)

Aquion Energy is a company based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., that produces sodium-ion batteries (saltwater batteries) and power storage systems. The company claims to offer a low-cost way to store large amounts of energy from thousands of battery cycles ( for use in the power grid).

Bill Gates has invested in Aquion Energy, a sodium-sulfur battery startup. sodium-sulfur batteries have high energy density and can achieve high-current, high-power discharge, but sodium-sulfur batteries need to work at high temperatures, with high requirements for insulation technology and poor safety. aquion Energy eventually ran out of the $200 million provided by Bill Gates and many other investors, and ended up in bankruptcy.

Sodium ion battery Market forecast

According to a survey report released by the British research firm IDTechEx, the sodium-ion battery market volume is expected to expand rapidly to more than 11 billion U.S. dollars before 2033, the global demand for sodium-ion batteries in 2025 is estimated to be 10 million KWh in 2033 is estimated to soar to seven times the size of nearly 70 million KWh.

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