China’s battery manufacturing giant, Contemporary Amperex Technology Company Limited (CATL), which is also known for manufacturing after-market Tesla accessories, unveiled its sodium-ion battery last week. The sodium-ion (Na-ion) battery will reportedly give the traditional lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries serious competition.
Traditional Li-ion batteries do not perform well in cold environments, and the required raw materials (Lithium, Cobalt, and Nickel) are expensive. On the other hand, sodium is readily available and cheap to procure. CATL states that its Na-ion batteries have a retention rate of 90 percent in temperatures as low as -20 °C and that the battery can be recharged in about 15 minutes at room temperature.
Li-ion batteries (such as in the Tesla Model 3) have an energy density of 260 Wh/kg. CATL added that its Na-ion batteries have an energy density of 160 Wh/kg which it aims to boost to 200 Wh/kg. It also intends to begin large-scale manufacturing of the Na-ion batteries by 2023.
The following radar chart details CATL’s projection of its Na-ion battery as compared to the Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery.
CATL also revealed that it is working on the integration of Na-ion and Li-ion batteries. Its founder and Chairman, Robin Zeng Yuqun, said, “Sodium-ion batteries are compatible and complementary with lithium-ion batteries. Diversified technical routes are also an important guarantee for the long-term development of the industry”.
However, analysts are still skeptical about the battery. Talking to Global Times, auto industry analyst Zhang Xiang remarked that “sodium-ion batteries only have a maximum of 1,500 cycles, which is less than the 6,000 cycles offered by lithium iron phosphate technology or the 3,000 cycles of ternary lithium batteries, which means sodium-ion batteries have a much shorter life span”.