Sodium-ion batteries have been installed and applied in different fields such as electric vehicles, two-wheeler, and energy storage, and the window of opportunity for large-scale applications seems to be expanding.
1. Application of sodium ion battery in electric vehicle
At the product launch event, HiNa BATTERY launched the first batch of three sodium-ion battery cell products, which can be applied to two-wheeled vehicles, passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, household and industrial and commercial energy storage, and electric energy storage. The most striking thing is that the Sihao EX10 Huaxianzi realized the loading of sodium-ion batteries on the prototype vehicle for the first time, realizing the milestone leap of sodium-ion batteries from 0 to 1.
This model has a charging capacity of 25kWh, a range of about 252km, and a system energy density of 120Wh/kg, while the released lifepo4 battery model has a charging capacity of 30kWh, a range of 300km, and an energy density of 140Wh/kg. It can be seen that the battery energy and system energy density of the sodium battery are about 80% of the LFP. Considering the excellent low-temperature performance, the endurance achievement rate in the northern winter may be higher than that of LFP batteries.
In fact, information on two other square sodium batteries was given at the press conference, the highest energy density reached 155Wh/kg, corresponding to a capacity of 240Ah. The LFP battery of the same size has a capacity of up to 304Ah, and an energy density of 177Wh/kg. It can be seen that the capacity is still about 80% of that of LFP.
The success of this large cell is critical to the application of energy storage, and its cycle is tested according to constant power charge and discharge. The current lifespan is more than 2000 cycles, which is far from the best LFP battery’s lifespan of more than 6000 cycles. It is necessary to continue to improve the lifespan in the future to meet the 20-year use requirements of the energy storage industry.
At the same time, these batteries have excellent low-temperature discharge energy, which can reach -40°C. However, low-temperature charging can only reach -10°C, which is a bit unsatisfactory. It seems that there is still room for improvement in the cathode and anode of layered sodium batteries to improve low-temperature charging capabilities.
In addition, there is no high-temperature storage data in the battery specifications, which proves that its performance at high temperatures may not be good enough and needs to be improved in the future.
2. Application of sodium ion battery in two-wheeled vehicles
Recently, Higee Energy announced that the first 48V 20Ah sodium-ion battery module has been successfully demonstrated in electric two-wheeled vehicles. The battery module is composed of 1P15S, with a weight of about 10kg, a standard load of 75kg, and a standard cruising range of 60km.
The energy density of the battery module is 96Wh/kg, which is much lower than that of Sihao Automobile, and also much lower than that of LFP battery. However, for motorcycle batteries, similar cost and safety performance as lead-acid batteries need to be achieved, taking into account recycling.
The BOM cost of lead-acid is below 0.3 RMB/Wh, and the current cost of the first-generation sodium-ion battery released by Chilwee is around 0.5 RMB. It is necessary to continue to reduce costs to reflect the advantages and achieve larger-scale applications.
3. Application of sodium ion battery in energy storage
Since sodium batteries have not been verified for long-term applications, it is difficult to guarantee a 20-year warranty period for large-scale energy storage. Small-scale household energy storage and outdoor power supply are good breakthroughs. Pylontech is a leading company in the field of home energy storage, and the application of Pylontech in the field of sodium-ion battery energy storage has accelerated.
At the same time, in the field of large-scale energy storage, China focuses on the development of "hundred megawatt-hour sodium-ion battery energy storage technology". For large-scale energy storage scenarios, research on long-life, wide-temperature range, and high-safety sodium-ion energy storage battery technology will be carried out to break through existing technical bottlenecks and achieve application verification in large-scale energy storage, distributed energy storage, and industrial energy storage.
4. The window of opportunity for sodium-ion batteries
Recently, sodium-ion batteries have achieved a leap in installed applications, and products have been verified in succession in the fields of electric vehicles, two-wheeled vehicles, and energy storage. It is also getting closer and closer to large-scale applications, and it seems that the window of opportunity is almost ready. But it is worth noting that the rapid development of sodium batteries is based on the high price of lithium batteries.
Since the beginning of 2023, the price of lithium carbonate has fallen endlessly. It is believed that under multiple pressures, the price of lithium salt is expected to fall back to a reasonable range in 2023. In this way, the price advantage of LFP will be further highlighted, and the opportunity window for sodium electricity will be further shortened.
In the short term, sodium batteries are still unable to compete directly with LFP. In the future, some application scenarios that LFP is not suitable for can be selected for breakthroughs, such as applications in low temperature regions. At the same time, low-cost cathode and anode materials, especially anode materials, can be further developed to accelerate the landing in motorcycle batteries and other fields.
In addition, sodium batteries are resistant to overdischarge, and it would be even more perfect if a battery system capable of overcharge resistance can be developed. In low-end applications, the quality of the BMS control board is often not up to standard, and related problems occur frequently. The intrinsic safety of the battery cell, especially to ensure the safety of overcharging, is particularly important.
It is necessary to continue to quickly solve some bottleneck problems of sodium batteries, especially high-temperature cycle gas production (hard carbon materials), narrow charging range at low temperature, and poor high-voltage cycle life.
The industry should consider the development, modification and implementation of hard carbon and soft carbon anode materials as soon as possible, matching the development of high-performance sodium battery electrolyte, so as to promote the rapid development of the sodium ion battery industry.
Sodium-ion batteries have recently made good progress on the application side, and they have been installed and tested in fields such as electric vehicles, battery vehicles, and energy storage. As the price of lithium carbonate falls, the window of opportunity for sodium batteries is also shortening. It needs to be clear that there are many routes for energy storage, especially for large-scale energy storage, and the final winner may not necessarily be sodium-ion batteries, so opportunities and risks coexist.