Sodium-ion batteries do not need lithium, cobalt, or nickel. China’s CATL, battery supplier for Tesla, unveiled sodium-ion batteries. They plan for a supply chain setup that will start production by 2023. Skipping components would mean less dependent on the materials in high demand and possibly reduce the cost of the battery substantially.
Recently automobile industry was hit by a shortage of semi-conductor chips which is yet to be resolved. In some ways, this alerted other battery-making companies to focus on alternative options. Cobalt demand has increased as alternatives to lithium-ion batteries would be nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) or nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM). Additionally Lithium Iron phosphate (LPF) batteries) were shown promising future as major EV makers like Tesla use them.
CATL announced sodium-ion batteries that don’t need the materials in demand. The cost of the batteries is not revealed yet. Valued to be $200 million, the battery manufacturer also mentions integrating lithium-ion batteries and sodium-ion batteries into a battery pack.
Furthermore, CATL Chairman Zeng Yuqun said, “Sodium-ion batteries have unique advantages in low-temperature performance, fast charging, and environmental adaptability. Moreover, they’re compatible and complementary with lithium-ion batteries. Diversified technical routes are an important guarantee for the long-term development of the industry.”
Usually, sodium-ion batteries are known to have lower energy densities. But CATL says that they were able to attain an energy density of 160 watt-hours per kilogram and are positive about increasing it to 200 wall-hours per kilogram. Whereas lithium-ion batteries have 285 Wh/kg energy density.
Working on developments
CATL is going to compete with top battery makers like Panasonic and LG Chem. Where there are more than 5000 researchers working on new battery technologies. Tesla being in partnerships with various companies also supports developments on electric vehicle parts. This year, Tesla donated $3.1 million to Dalhousie University where the team headed by Dr. Jeff Dahn kept closely working with Tesla’s team on batteries.
CATL is currently a battery supplier for Tesla in China. In the first half of 2021, CATL celebrated selling 34.1 GWh which is a 234% increase from last year. Most clients are favorable in further developments of batteries. As nickel and cobalt prices increased, the battery price also increased. The company is yet to finish more experiments on its new sodium-ion batteries.
Other than Tesla, the company also supplies batteries to Volkswagen and Geely. With the technology to directly integrate battery cells into the vehicle, the range can be extended. In the coming years, CATL will be ahead of its competition depending on how efficient its new batteries are.