Top EV Battery Maker adds sodium to your cookbook

TOKYO: contemporary Amperex technology Co.

, the world’s largest manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles and a Tesla Inc.

supplier, said it was looking to make batteries using sodium ions, a technology that could lower costs and improve performance.

CATL is the first global battery manufacturer to adopt sodium-based battery technology, which is promising because sodium is relatively abundant and cheap. Other major players in the automotive business such as Panasonic Corp.

and LG Chem Limited.

They have focused on improving battery recipes that are based on elements that are less easily extracted, such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.

The commercialization of sodium-based batteries still faces challenges. CATL said that the energy density of its new battery – the amount of energy it stores per unit volume – is less than that of a widely used electric vehicle battery in China known as lithium ferrophosphate.

Companies are competing to reduce the cost of making an electric vehicle to match traditional gasoline vehicles. UBS Group AG has estimated that electric vehicle motors and battery packs cost $ 4,000 more to build than a comparable midsize gasoline sedan engine, a difference it believes will disappear by the middle of the decade.

CATL’s market capitalization has risen sharply this year to about $ 200 billion, according to FactSet, making it one of the most valuable companies in China. Investors have bought into the battery maker with optimism about the electric vehicle wave. It supplies electric vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit, and Chinese automakers.

Electric vehicle entrepreneurs are working on the industry’s biggest bottleneck: charging infrastructure. Companies are building more chargers, but it may not be enough to make EVs work for people who can’t plug them in at home. (Posted July 6) Photo Illustration: Carlos Waters / WSJ

CATL, in an online briefing, said sodium batteries have other uses beyond electric vehicles, such as storing energy on a power grid. He said he was in talks with potential clients and planned to get a supply chain up and running by 2023.

He did not name the clients. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said the automaker is working on technologies to significantly lower the cost of batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles despite challenges including the risk of fire and the cost of mining lithium in remote locations.

The cost of sodium could be a fraction of lithium and electric vehicles could charge more quickly, said Dennis Chien, a senior analyst at Hong Kong-based investment company HSZ Group. “I think there is great potential for sodium ion batteries to play an important role” in electric vehicles, he said.

CATL and other sodium ion battery manufacturers have yet to demonstrate that they can manufacture in large quantities. “The cost of manufacturing could remain high and it would lose its competitive edge if the industrialization process does not progress as well as expected,” wrote Chinese securities firm Everbright Securities in a recent report.

CATL researcher Qisen Huang said the company’s sodium ion batteries charge quickly and perform well in cold climates.

Sodium ions are charged particles of the element sodium that travel back and forth between the battery’s electrodes as it stores and discharges energy.

CATL also showed images of a proposed battery pack that combines sodium-ion and lithium-ion batteries. That would be one way to maintain good range on a single charge while ensuring the vehicle doesn’t break down in cold weather.

Write to Yang Jie in [email protected]

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Add Comment