The future of sodium batteries excluding cost advantages
Sodium-ion batteries have been continuously reported this year to accelerate the news of industrialization. According to media reports, the first new car equipped with CATL sodium batteries is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter, using a mixed solution of sodium batteries and lithium batteries.
BYD’s sodium battery will also be mass-produced and launched in the second half of the year, and it also adopts a mixed solution. In addition, top 50 lithium ion battery manufacturers have also announced a clearer schedule for the industrialization of sodium batteries.
Many signals seem to indicate that the mass production of sodium batteries is on the line. But at the same time, lithium carbonate prices have been falling all the way this year. The current price is very different from the previous all-time high of 600,000 yuan. In this regard, the market has questioned whether the sodium battery has not yet begun to end the power battery.
The advantages of sodium batteries
In the mass production of sodium batteries, what are the other benefits in addition to the cost advantage?
In fact, before the practical application of lithium batteries and sodium batteries, the two basically started at the same time, and the working principle was very close. However, due to certain differences in battery materials, lithium-ion batteries were first put into the market, officially opening the era of lithium battery commercialization.
Sodium electricity, on the other hand, does not meet market requirements due to its low energy density. With the continuous maturity of lithium battery manufacturers, sodium batteries have only begun to enter the market in recent years.
However, this has changed since the price of lithium carbonate has been decreasing. In the context of the surge in demand for electric vehicles and the rapid scarcity of lithium resources, lithium carbonate has soared, and battery-grade lithium carbonate even exceeded the mark of 600,000 yuan per ton in November last year, an increase of nearly 1,300% compared with July 2020.
Under the high cost, the middle and downstream enterprises of the lithium battery industry chain began to pay attention to sodium batteries. According to estimates, sodium electricity can theoretically reduce the material cost compared with lithium batteries by 30%-40%.
In 2021, sodium batteries ushered in an explosive period. At that time, lithium battery companies such as CATL entered the market, and there were various emerging sodium power companies. Among them, CATL released the first generation of sodium-ion batteries.
It can be seen that sodium batteries actually rely to a large extent on lithium carbonate soaring, so the current rapid decline in lithium carbonate prices may promote lithium battery prices to fall.
Market of raw materials
In this analysis, the reason for the rise of sodium-ion batteries is not only the price of raw materials. Under the continuous upgrading of technology, the performance of sodium-ion batteries is gradually approaching lithium batteries, and at the same time, at low temperatures, sodium-ion batteries have better adaptability, which can better solve the problem of significant attenuation of electric vehicle range in winter, which also supports sodium batteries to continue to land.
But on the other hand, market analysis generally believes that if sodium batteries do not have a cost advantage, it is difficult to cover up the performance disadvantage. The most ideal application scenarios for sodium batteries are energy storage and two-wheeled electric vehicles, and it can be seen that new energy vehicles actually use a combination of sodium and lithium.
Therefore, there is dislocation competition, but when the price difference between the two is not large, the dislocation competition becomes the same competition, but the same competition has no price advantage.
In addition, it is estimated that the material cost of lithium iron phosphate cells is comparable to the material cost of sodium cells. Some insiders pointed out that sodium batteries have not yet landed on a large scale, and the cost of samples and mass production cannot be compared.
Therefore, the cost is actually a little higher than lithium iron phosphate, and if the price of lithium batteries falls to erase the cost gap, the popularity of sodium batteries cannot be discussed. In the long run, the lithium battery industry chain is still in a state of de-inventory for a long time.
Technical route of companies
From the current development situation, whether it is traditional lithium battery manufacturers are increasing their layout, new battery manufacturers are developing rapidly, and production capacity is spreading rapidly.
At present, Gotion, EVE and other enterprises are in the stage of R&D and technical reserves. The cumulative annual production capacity of sodium ion cathode materials is 827,000 tons, the cumulative annual production capacity of negative electrode materials is 154,000 tons, and the production capacity of negative electrode materials has not yet been increased.
Further, the progress of sodium batteries is mainly due to differences in the route of cathode materials. At present, there are three cathode materials available for sodium batteries, layered oxide, polyanion and Prussian blue materials.
Among them, the first generation of sodium batteries mainly uses Prussian blue materials. Although the energy density is high, the cycling performance is slightly worse. Mass production of layered oxides and polyanionic materials has been achieved.
At present, the most mature material is layered oxide, which has low technology conversion rate and cost, guaranteed production capacity, excellent comprehensive performance, and is more favored by the market. In the polyanion route, its compound stability and electrochemical stability are high, and it has the longest theoretical cycle life and is the high voltage battery, which is most suitable for long-term energy storage.
Application and market of sodium-ion batteries
However, it should also be noted that although the top 10 sodium ion battery manufacturers accelerate the research and development of production capacity layout and technical routes, everything is still unknown until the real landing of mass production, and what is currently known is that the sodium battery that has entered the first year of mass production seems to be in a more embarrassing situation.
On the one hand, in order to give full play to its cost advantages, large-scale mass production is required, but the main support of cost advantages is required to achieve large-scale mass production.
On the other hand, public information shows that the energy density of lithium iron phosphate batteries is 150-210Wh/kg. At present, EVE first-generation large cylindrical sodium-ion battery product has an energy density of 135Wh/kg, and the second-generation sodium-ion battery product under research by Hive Energy is an example, and it is expected to complete the development of 160Wh/kg sodium-ion battery in the fourth quarter.
It can be seen that the energy density of the current sodium-ion battery has just reached the lower limit of lithium-ion batteries. In this regard, some market analysts frankly said that this year’s sodium-ion batteries are faster in scenarios with relatively low energy density requirements such as two-wheeled electric vehicles and special vehicles, while in passenger car scenarios with relatively high energy density requirements, it is far from reaching the level of large-scale mass production.
At this stage, the sodium-ion battery industry chain is still in the introduction stage, the battery materials and electrolyte process are in the early stage of development, and the commercialization of the sodium-ion battery industry still needs a certain amount of time.