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Chinese automakers are forging ahead with sodium-ion batteries

CATL Sodium ion

Sodium-ion batteries, which could offer significant cost and raw material procurement advantages over the lithium-ion kind, have been much discussed in the press of late.

Chinese battery behemoth CATL unveiled its first-generation sodium-ion battery in July 2021. At the time, analysts predicted that Na-ion cells, which are expected to offer only modest energy density, would find their main applications in energy storage and two-wheeled EVs.

Now CATL has revealed that Chinese automaker Chery, which specializes in low-cost subcompact cars, will be the first customer to use CATL’s sodium-ion batteries in a production vehicle. Neither company has yet offered any details.

Back in 2021, CATL said that it would build a sodium-ion battery supply chain by 2023, and that specific energy of the cells would exceed 200 Wh/kg—enough to meet the needs of EVs with a range of up to 400 km.

CATL has proposed a mixed battery pack that leverages both the higher energy density of Li-ion cells and Na-ion’s benefits in terms of cost, fast charging and low-temperature performance. Is that what the upcoming Chery model will use?

CATL isn’t the only player in the sodium sandbox. In February, Hina Battery unveiled three sodium-ion battery cell types, and announced a partnership with automaker JAC, which has reportedly built a test vehicle using Na-ion cells. In March, Farasis Energy said it would supply Na-ion cells to carmaker JMEV.

Last November, BYD, the world’s largest EV-maker, said that it would start mass production of sodium-ion batteries in Q2 2023, and deploy them in three models: the Qin, the Dolphin, and the newly launched Seagull.  

The latter is on display at the Shanghai Auto Show, and is attracting much attention for its impossibly low starting price of 78,000 yuan ($11,300). However, BYD says it is equipped with a lithium iron phosphate BYD Blade battery—at least for now.

When will sodium-ion cells appear in a production vehicle, and who will be building it? We await the answers, but we do know one thing: this particular bit of EV history will be made in China.

Sources: CnEVPost via Electrive, CarNewsChina

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