Today we can say with certainty that lithium-ion batteries rule the automotive market, but that doesn’t mean they are a perfect solution. In this sense, the principle of all batteries is that they have a storage of chemical substances that transform chemical energy into electrical energy. These substances can be lead-acid, cobalt, lithium polymer, among others, but when it comes to electric vehicles, there really is no choice. Lithium is the only option that meets the requirements for energy density, power and longevity.
However, today in the automotive industry, the development of alternatives that allow lower production costs and at the same time provide better performance is being pursued . This is where sodium ion batteries come into the picture. This element is a potential substitute for lithium and one that is much more abundant on earth.
In recent times, battery manufacturers have made inroads in this field, leading us to believe that they could hit the market as early as 2023.
Going from a raw material as scarce as lithium to a more abundant one such as sodium would mean an evolution in the automotive industry, giving way to the manufacture of cheaper batteries and, therefore, more affordable electric cars and an accelerated adoption of these. The problem, however, is that no manufacturer has managed to make commercially viable sodium-ion batteries, until now.
The first generation of sodium batteries is coming
It seems that everything is about to change for the better, because in recent days we have learned of a couple of manufacturers that would come to turn the tables. One of the early candidates is LI-FUN Technology , which in June this year will move to the production of prototype bag-type sodium ion cells.
The company explained that its prototypes reach a gravimetric energy density of 140Wh/kg and a volumetric energy density of 240Wh/I . More interesting still is that technically they can be charged to 80% in just 15 minutes and that their life expectancy exceeds 4,000 charge cycles, that with a capacity retention of 88% at -20 ° C.
Likewise, LI-FUN ensures that in 2023 the second generation of these battery cells can be marketed with a good production volume. As if that were not enough, the second generation could reach higher figures, we are talking about 160WH/kg and 280Wh/I in gravimetric and volumetric energy density, respectively.
Naturally, the competition won’t let LI-FUN have all the fun. Natron and Clarios International have also made important advances in this field, but it should be noted that their batteries are outlined for other industrial uses. The fact that these cells have a theoretical useful life of more than 50,000 charge and discharge cycles gives them many potential applications, but use in vehicles is only a future possibility.
Having to choose between lithium-ion or sodium-ion technology is a dilemma that some manufacturers answer with a simple “both”. In this sense, we are aware that CATL is working on batteries that combine both solutions in a single cell pack , which comes with the benefit of increasing the overall performance and autonomy of electric cars .
CATL’s proposal concretely promises energy density of 160 Wh/kg and fast charging of up to 80% in just 15 minutes, as well as 90% capacity retention at -20°C.
Finally, it is worth noting that this company has ambitions to deploy this technology in 2023 , since it states that the adaptation of the production lines would not be so complicated.