In the long run, realizing self-research and self-production of upstream materials and seeking integrated development will help sodium-ion battery companies in the world build core competitiveness in cost control. The mass production of sodium batteries has entered the countdown. On the one hand, the cost price of sodium batteries is gradually decreasing, and the leading companies have achieved certain results in battery cost control. On the other hand, the prototype of the sodium battery industry chain has emerged. Against this background, some first-entry companies have made a forward-looking layout of upstream materials, and are the first to seek integrated development through self-research and self-production of materials.
The logic behind this is that, taking the development history of lithium batteries as a mirror, sodium batteries have been placed with high expectations for extreme cost performance since they entered the energy track. Even though sodium batteries are still in the early stages of growth, relevant companies have realized that in the long run, only by realizing self-research and self-production of upstream materials and seeking integrated development can they build their core competitiveness in terms of cost control.
1. The foundation of sodium battery - cost performance
The industrial chain and cost advantages are the foundation for sodium batteries to seize the opportunity of lithium price fluctuations and take the lead in breaking through from new batteries. In terms of the industrial chain, the potential of the sodium battery industry chain is based on the mobility of lithium batteries. The reference to the years of practice in the lithium battery industry chain is the strong driving force for the rapid growth of sodium batteries in a short period of time.
In terms of cost, ideally, compared lithium vs sodium battery, the overall material cost of sodium batteries is 30%-40% lower than that of lithium batteries. It can be seen that based on the potential of the industrial chain and low cost as the development direction, the express train of sodium batteries will enter the energy track that pursues the ultimate cost performance. The industry's expectation for sodium batteries is to surpass lead-acid batteries in terms of performance and lower cost than lithium iron phosphate batteries. This is also reflected in the business strategy of sodium battery companies.
Transimage revealed that the pricing will be adjusted according to the raw materials used by downstream customers. If the customer originally used lithium iron phosphate, it will be priced at 25-30% cheaper than lithium iron phosphate; if the customer originally used lead-acid batteries, it will be priced at about 30% more expensive than lead-acid batteries.
2. Sodium battery cost unit price is approaching the development period
Based on the foundation of cost performance, sodium battery companies are constantly seeking breakthroughs in battery costs. According to the previous judgment of industry professionals, the cost of sodium batteries will develop in three stages: the promotion period is 0.5-0.7 RMB/Wh; the development period is 0.3-0.5 RMB/Wh; the outbreak period is below 0.3 RMB/Wh. Relevant institutions estimate that in the industry, the current comprehensive cost of sodium batteries is about 0.9 RMB/Wh, which is generally higher than the promotion period.
However, judging from the relevant product data, some enterprises have made staged progress in controlling the cost of sodium batteries. After the 1GWHh production lines of HiNa BATTERY and Foryou Corporation are put into production, the battery cost will be about 0.5-0.7 RMB/Wh; Transimage recently disclosed that the company's cost can be controlled at 0.5 RMB/Wh, and can be maintained at 0.45 RMB/Wh after stabilization. According to the analysis, the leading companies have reached a breakthrough in terms of cost, and may soon enter the development period, gradually approaching the cost level of LFP battery.
3. Starting from the upstream, sodium and electricity integration started
In order to build core competitiveness in cost control, sodium battery companies that entered the market first have formed a layout for upstream materials. Behind this is the lithium battery as a lesson, and adhere to the long-term development of cost-effective advantages. On the layout of upstream materials for sodium batteries:
- HiNa BATTERY has achieved hundreds of tons of cathode and anode material preparation and small batch supply;
- Transimage's integration strategy was initially formed, and the four departments of the company's cathode, anode, electrolyte, and battery research and development were simultaneously promoted;
- NATRIUM has successively built a ton-level layered oxide cathode material wet synthesis pilot line and a cathode material production line with an annual output of 3,000 tons. In addition, NATRIUM has achieved self-developed electrolyte, and its cathode material and electrolyte have been verified by many battery manufacturers;
- The 50,000-ton NFS sodium ion cathode material manufacturing base under ZOOLNASH has signed a contract and is expected to be put into operation in the second half of 2023.
Judging from the relevant situation of the above enterprises, the strategic advantage of opening up the upstream of materials and integrated development has begun to emerge. One is battery cost. Transimage, which has initially formed the integration, revealed that although the company’s cost in the material segment is not much different from that of the industry, but because of the integration strategy, it has a relatively certain price advantage in the final battery cost. The second is to develop the second growth point of enterprise revenue. The above HiNa BATTERY, Transimage, and NATRIUM have all expanded their customers in the material segment.
Transimage expects that in the future, the profit margin of the material side will be higher than that of the battery side. On the whole, sodium electricity is in the early stages of development, and the industry is focusing more on energy density and cycle performance. However, taking lithium batteries as a lesson, the integrated strategy of breaking through materials has more long-term advantages in cost control and business expansion. At the same time, it should be noted that in the short term, the strategic development of sodium-electricity integration still faces difficulties. At present, anode materials are the key to the industrialization of sodium batteries.
The anode material of sodium battery is mainly hard carbon. Among hard carbon precursors, biomass precursors have become the mainstream precursor route due to their wide range of sources and high cost performance, but it is difficult to screen suitable precursors and stabilize batch supply. However, the research and development technology of resin and anthracite mixed hard carbon with good performance, low cost and stable supply is not yet mature. It can be speculated that the research on anode materials will become one of the key points to measure the integrated development of sodium battery companies.