Sodium-ion batteries vs lithium-ion batteries – a game changer for electric vehicles ?

September 14, 2021

China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., or CATL, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, unveiled its latest product in July — a sodium-ion battery.

Done right, this technology could lead to widespread adoption in a market largely dependent on subsidies and where EV sales are still a fraction of all cars.

Key points in this regard –

  • Sodium-ion batteries were initially being researched in 1970s, but then interest got shifted towards newer, fancier and supposedly more promising lithium-ion batteries.
  • Recently, however challenges with lithium-ion batteries are becoming more and more apparent – costs being one of the major one due to shortage of material. The other being safety (fire incidents).
  • The content of sodium in earth reserves is around 2.5% to 3%, or 300 times more than lithium and is more evenly distributed, according to Jefferies Group LLC analysts. Wider availability in turn imply lower costs. Sodium power packs could cost almost 30% to 50% less than the cheapest electric car battery options currently available. Wider availability also means less volatile prices fluctuations further improving the overall operating dynamics.
  • Sodium-ion batteries currently have a relatively lower energy density, they run better at cooler temperatures and have a greater life span, making them a better long-term investment, in theory. CATL’s latest product is expected to have an energy density of 160 Watt-hour per kilogram and will take 15 minutes to reach 80% of its charge. That’s on par with batteries currently on the market, ranging from 140 Wh/kg to 180 and 240 in the highest end type.

Lower overall costs can provide the much needed EV push especially for developing countries like India.

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