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Sodium-ion (Na-ion) Batteries

Sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries have been the subject of research and development for several years, and their history involves contributions from multiple researchers and institutions.

In the early 1980s, researchers began exploring sodium-ion battery systems as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries due to the abundance and lower cost of sodium compared to lithium. Sodium is more abundant and widely available compared to lithium, which is a limited resource. The abundance of sodium makes it a more sustainable choice for large-scale battery production. Also, due to the lower cost of sodium compared to lithium, sodium-ion batteries may eventually surpass adoptability of lithium-ion batteries in the future.

Sodium-ion (Na-ion) Batteries

Sodium-ion (Na-ion) Battery

Another advantage of sodium-ion batteries is that sodium has a very established and less environmentally damaging extraction process compared to lithium. It is well known that lithium mining can have serious environmental implications in regions where it is mined and the ever increasing demand for lithium in lithium-ion batteries raises concerns about its environmental impact.

Furthermore, the production of Na-ion batteries can be performed in the same production line as Li-ion batteries. This means that any company that currently produces Li-ion batteries, won’t need to make any changes to their factories’ production line and can swap from one chemistry to the other right away. This will be a deciding factor for many producers as it will mean cheaper materials will be used in existing infrastructure, bringing the production cost down without any costly changes.

Last, sodium-ion batteries generally have a lower risk of thermal runaway and fire hazards compared to lithium-ion batteries. This enhanced safety profile can be beneficial both during use and in recycling or disposal processes.

On July 29, 2021, the largest Chinese battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. announced their first generation of sodium-ion batteries. Their promise is that this type of battery has a high energy density, it can fast charge to up to 80% of the total capacity in only 15 minutes at room temperature, is thermally very stable and its capacity at -20°C remains at over 90%, something that is impressive compared to how Li-ion batteries behave in cold weather.

This new battery chemistry is very promising and, with a production cost of 30-35% cheaper than Li-ion batteries, there are very good chances it will become the prevalent chemistry in EVs.

Here’s a very informative video on the subject: