Novel battery from China could change everything

FRANKFURT/NINGDE – In July 2021, Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) founder and CEO Robin Zeng announced a new type of battery storage that could potentially be game-changing for electric cars. In contrast to the scarce and expensive raw material lithium, the company uses inexpensive sodium for its batteries. CATL is the world’s largest manufacturer of battery cells.

Electric cars soon with new batteries

The sodium-ion batteries also completely do without cobalt. Today, almost two years later, CATL started the first pilot production of the new battery. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Chinese carmaker BYD is also planning to offer models with the new batteries.

But the first step is taken by the Chinese car manufacturer JAC Motors. A press release from the company says the Hua Xianzi will come with the technology. “The future of electric cars looks bright with the introduction of more affordable and sustainable battery technology,” said JAC Motors South Africa CEO Karl-Heinz Göbel. “As new battery technologies are developed, electric car prices will become more competitive, allowing more car buyers access to new-energy vehicles.”

These new lithium-free battery storage systems could significantly advance electric cars. It is estimated that battery cell production will have doubled globally in 2022 alone. In the last five years, global auto industry demand has increased nine-fold for cobalt, fourteen-fold for lithium and twenty-fold for nickel. The lack of mines to mine the metals led to a sharp rise in prices.

“All European manufacturers are very interested”

With battery costs constantly rising, electric vehicles could become too expensive for the general public – even more expensive than they already are. Managers like Stellanti’s CEO Carlos Tavares also warn of this. Volkswagen CFO Arno Antlitz also recently stated that new cars are becoming more expensive, also because of the high prices for battery materials.

Engineers have therefore been dealing with possible alternatives to the conventional motors and batteries from electric cars for some time now. CATL’s sodium-ion battery is just one example of their achievements. But the price is not their only advantage. You should be able to charge the battery up to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. In addition, it is less flammable and withstands low temperatures far better than conventional alternatives.

The problem: Sodium batteries can store about a third less energy than lithium batteries with the same weight – at least according to the current state of the art. “For mobile use in the car, they are currently still at the lower limit,” quotes the FAZ Christoph Neef, battery expert at the Fraunhofer ISI research institute in Karlsruhe. “All European manufacturers are very interested in sodium-ion batteries, but in Europe we will probably not see them in electric cars for four years at the earliest.”

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; JAC Motors