Sodium-Ion Batteries Draw Attention in China as Lithium Prices Soar
As tight supply of lithium resources sends prices skyrocketing, more cost-effective sodium-ion batteries are now attracting the attention of various parties within the Chinese market.
Sodium-ion batteries can be used in both electric vehicles and energy storage power stations. On September 18, Securities Daily reporters learned from leading Chinese battery firm CATL that its upstream industrial chain of sodium-ion batteries will be completed and put into production next year, and that efforts are being made to promote the industrialization of sodium-ion batteries in 2023.
Two years ago, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate was only 40,000 yuan ($5,710) per ton, but as of September 16, 2022, the price rose to 502,500 yuan per ton, an increase of 1,156.25% in two years.
Xin Guobin, China’s Vice Minister Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, pointed out that from January to August 2022, the domestic production and sales of new energy vehicles were 3.97 million units and 3.86 million units respectively, up by multiples of 1.2 and 1.1 respectively. In 2020, the production and sales volume of new energy vehicles in China was 1.366 million units and 1.367 million units respectively.
At present, the pressure of rising raw material prices of lithium batteries is being transmitted to vehicle manufacturers and battery manufacturers such as CATL.
According to a research report released by Huatai Securities, the strategic significance of sodium-ion batteries is highlighted under the background of a shortage of lithium resources. Compared with lithium batteries, sodium batteries have a more stable electrochemical performance and lower costs. Compared with lead-acid/all-vanadium redox flow batteries, sodium-ion batteries have higher cost performance.
The cost of cathode materials for lithium ion batteries accounts for the highest proportion, which is 43%. However, the cost of cathode materials for sodium-ion batteries only accounts for 26%. The development of sodium-ion batteries is still in the early stage, and has not yet entered large-scale production and application.
As one of the earliest enterprises to enter the field of sodium-ion batteries, CATL released its first generation of sodium-ion batteries as early as July 29, 2021. The energy density of battery cells reached 160Wh/kg. 80% of electricity can be reached within 15 minutes of charging at normal temperatures. In low temperature environments of -20ºC, it also has a discharge retention rate of over 90%. In addition, CATL put forward the application scheme of lithium-sodium mixed battery pack.
According to industry insiders, although sodium-ion batteries have obvious price advantages, whether they can be commercialized on a large scale depends on product performance. In the next three to five years, it will be difficult for sodium-ion battery developers to achieve profits. They are focusing on pursuing leading technology, so as to achieve profits in the stage of large-scale manufacturing.
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According to fintech service provider Tonghuashun, as of September 16, there were 36 sodium-ion batteries concept stocks in A-shares, most of which operate within the power equipment field. In addition, listed companies in pharmaceutical biology, the basic chemical industry, media, machinery and other industries also have laid out operations in the sodium-ion battery field.