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Is the Sodium Battery Still Market Competitive?

Jun 28, 2024

With the rapid advancements in battery technology, the sodium battery has emerged as a notable alternative to the well-established lithium battery. However, recent fluctuations in lithium carbonate prices have raised questions about the market competitiveness of sodium batteries. Despite these challenges, industry experts maintain that sodium batteries still hold significant potential due to their cost advantages and unique properties.

 

Cost Advantages of Sodium Batteries

Sodium batteries, as an alternative to lithium batteries, boast cost advantages, making them competitive in the market. Although the significant decrease in lithium battery raw material prices has somewhat hindered the commercialization of sodium batteries, their theoretical cost is still 30%-40% lower than that of lithium batteries. Additionally, sodium batteries have unique advantages in charge/discharge rate, high and low-temperature performance, and safety. With the mass production of related products, the future of sodium batteries remains promising.

 

Development Trend of Sodium Batteries

The development of sodium batteries started almost simultaneously with lithium batteries, and their charge/discharge mechanisms are similar. However, sodium batteries once faced technological bottlenecks, causing a halt in progress until around 2010 when breakthroughs in anode and cathode materials accelerated academic research and industrial attempts. 2023 has been dubbed the "Year of the Sodium Battery," with a complete industrial chain forming. Currently, sodium batteries are applied in two-wheeled electric vehicles, energy storage, data centers, communication base stations, underground coal mines, and engineering vehicles. In early 2024, sodium batteries showed strong growth momentum, with over 20 signed, recorded, and commenced projects involving battery cells, anode, and cathode materials, totaling nearly 40 billion RMB in investments.

 

Unique Advantages of Sodium Batteries

In recent years, the significant fluctuations in lithium battery raw material prices have severely impacted the industry's healthy development. In contrast, sodium battery raw materials are abundant, widely distributed, and self-controllable, effectively mitigating or eliminating the supply chain risks and impacts caused by the uneven distribution and price volatility of lithium resources. Sodium batteries are also safer than lithium batteries; they release less flammable gas under high temperature and overcharge conditions. Additionally, sodium batteries perform well in low-temperature charge/discharge scenarios, with a capacity retention rate above 90% at -20°C.

 

Long-Term Prospects of Sodium Batteries

Industry experts point out that rapidly reducing costs and turning the theoretical cost advantage of sodium batteries into a reality is crucial for industry development. The industrialization process of sodium batteries will not fundamentally change due to lithium carbonate price fluctuations. The anode materials used in sodium batteries, such as copper, aluminum, iron, and sodium, are inexpensive, and the anode materials processed from ordinary anthracite are much cheaper than the graphite used in lithium batteries. As production capacity increases and the industrial chain matures, the cost of sodium batteries will rapidly decline.

In the future, sodium batteries will develop towards high energy, low cost, high safety, and high intelligence. By controlling the use of precious metal elements in layered oxide cathodes, developing low-cost manganese-based materials, simplifying hard carbon anode processes, selecting suitable production materials, and accelerating research on battery performance in low-concentration electrolytes, production costs can be reduced through comprehensive process optimization.

In future market competition, sodium batteries can supplement and replace the shortcomings of lithium iron phosphate batteries in the upper market and gradually replace lead-acid batteries in the lower market. It is expected that by around 2028, the sodium battery industry will mature, especially in the low-speed electric vehicle field, with market shares of lead-acid batteries, sodium batteries, and lithium batteries being 40%, 45%, and 15%, respectively.

 

Conclusion

In summary, although lithium carbonate price fluctuations have impacted the commercialization progress of sodium batteries, they remain competitive in the market. With their cost advantages, safety, and low-temperature performance, the future of sodium batteries remains promising with the mass production of related products. In future market competition, sodium batteries are expected to play an important role.

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