Lithium-Ion vs Sodium-Ion Batteries: Which Is The Better One?
Energy generation and storage for day-to-day applications have attracted a great deal of attention in the last two decades. The continuous R&D activities on rechargeable batteries have led to significant advancement in many fields. In earlier years, portable electronics were the prominent driver for the development of rechargeable batteries. However, the most recent advancements in electric vehicles have put the battery industry in the spotlight.
Lithium-ion batteries have remained at the forefront of the rechargeable battery industry, but the consistently growing market is putting regular pressure on resources and supply chains of the lithium-ion battery industry. Therefore, novel sodium-ion batteries, being less susceptible to resource and supply risks, are reconsidered to provide a lower-cost alternative. Since Lithium-ion batteries cost 30-40% of an electric vehicle, it is believed that the price range of electric vehicles can be reduced considerably if sodium-ion batteries are manufactured on a large scale and replaced with Lithium-ion batteries.
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Sodium-ion batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries
In 2020, Washington State University (WSU) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers created a sodium-ion battery that delivered a capacity identical to some lithium-ion batteries and kept more than 80 percent of its charge after 1,000 cycles. The manufacturing of a potentially feasible battery out of abundant and cheap materials like sodium created a lot of excitement in the battery manufacturing community. As a result, the sodium-ion battery is looked like an alternative to the expensive Lithium-ion batteries that are ubiquitously used for making portable consumer electronics and electric vehicle batteries.
Figure 1: WSU Ph.D. graduate Junhua Song and colleagues created a sodium-ion battery that holds as much energy and works as well as some commercial lithium-ion battery chemistries
Worldwide patent applications statistics
Owing to its promising future, sodium-ion battery technology has shown exponential growth in patent application filings over the past twenty years (figure 2). More than 18000 patent applications have been filed in the last five years in this domain. China, US, and Japan stand in the top three positions worldwide in terms of the number of patent filings in this realm, with China having filed more than 16000 applications in the past twenty years (figure 3). India, being a potential market in this technology domain has also witnessed several patent filings in sodium-ion battery technology, in the past few years.
Figure 2: Patent applications filings in sodium-ion batteries in the past 20 years
Figure 3: Country-wise patent filings in sodium-ion battery technology
In addition to companies, universities and research institutes have also actively participated in the development of sodium-ion–based batteries in the past few years. An analysis of 3,366 sodium-ion battery patent families in the last 5 years using patsnap revealed that Central South University, Shaanxi University of Science & Technology, and Guangdong University of Technology comprised 8.26% of patent filing during this period (figure 4).
Figure 4: Patent filings by different universities and institutes in past five years
Advantages of sodium-ion batteries
Compared to other types of batteries, the use of sodium-ion batteries provides various advantages to manufacturers and consumers including higher safety, wide temperature range utility, affordable price, and lightweight, as shown in figure 5. Although the energy density of sodium-ion batteries is lower than that of lithium-batteries, however, with continuous efforts of the scientific community, sodium-ion batteries are expected to perform in line with lithium-ion cells in the coming future.
Figure 5: Advantages of using sodium-ion batteries
According to CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited), a leading Chinese battery manufacturing company, the energy density of next-generation sodium-ion batteries will exceed 200Wh/kg in the coming time.
Applications of sodium-ion batteries
Some applications of sodium-ion batteries in the industry are shown in figure 6. Amongst these, the electric vehicle industry has a greater potential for sodium-ion batteries and a number of patent applications have been filed for the same. Statistics showed that more than 1250 patents are active in the electric vehicle sodium-ion battery domain (figure 7).
In November 2022, an executive of CATL stated that initial sodium-ion batteries used in production vehicles may use an integration of Li-ion and sodium-ion batteries. This approach allows sodium-ion batteries to be able to support electric vehicles with a range of up to 500 kilometers (Sodium-ion Batteries Expected in Evs with Ranges of up to 500 Km, CATL Exec Says – Batteries News Posted November 2022).
Figure 6: Sodium-ion battery applications
Figure 7: Statistics of Patent filings for sodium-ion batteries in context with electric vehicle
Emerging players in the market
At present, lithium-ion battery technology is a huge industry with a market value of around 42.5 billion USD in 2021. The sodium-ion battery industry, on the other hand, is at its infancy stage of development and is anticipated to grow rapidly as new players enter the ecosystem in the upcoming years. Some prominent players in the sodium-ion battery industry include CATL, Faradion, HiNa battery, etc. A few other emerging players are shown in figure 8.
Figure 8: Prominent players in sodium-ion battery technology
Faradion limited is a leading company in battery technology having an extensive IP portfolio, shown in figure 9, covering several aspects of sodium-ion technology. Owing to a promising future and having filed more than 180 patent applications in this field globally, 100% shareholdings of Fadarion Limited have been acquired by Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd (“RNESL”), a wholly–owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (“Reliance”), for an enterprise value of £100 million (https://faradion.co.uk/reliance-new-energy-solar-to-acquire-faradion-limited/ Posted 31 December 2021). Faradion CEO James Quinn stated that “Together with Reliance, Faradion can bring British innovation to India and globally, as the world increasingly looks beyond lithium”
Figure 9: The Patent portfolio of Faradion for sodium-ion batteries
In 2021, Xtreme power launched industry’s first rack-mount Uninterruptible Power System (UPS) featuring Natron’s sodium-ion batteries. The new Xtreme Power P91L UPS is available in 3kW and 5kW capacities, with 120 and 208/220/230/240V AC, 50/60Hz operation, and is specially designed to accept Natron’s BlueTray 4000 48V DC battery as backup power. Due to the employment of sodium-ion batteries, the safety of the UPS system can be enhanced significantly.
Materials used for sodium-ion battery
Various materials have been examined by researchers for making anode, cathode, and electrolyte for sodium-ion batteries. Some of the popular materials that can be used are
Cathode: NaCrO2, Na0.7CoO2+x, NaCoPO4, NaFePO4, Na0.44MnO2
Anode: Na2Ti3O7, Na2Ti3O7, NaTi2(PO4)3, Na2Ti3O7
Moreover, based on the fundamental materials used, three types of sodium-ion batteries are available in the market: sodium-sulfur battery, sodium-salt battery, and sodium-air battery. In 2021, sodium-sulfur batteries dominated the market having a 46% share
Market analysis of sodium-ion batteries
According to custom market insights, the Sodium-ion Battery market size was valued at around USD 1120 million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 2899 million by 2030, as illustrated in figure 10 (https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2022/11/15/2556368/0/en/Latest-Global-Sodium-Ion-Battery-Market-Size-Share-Worth-USD-2899-Million-by-2030-at-an-11-8-CAGR-Custom-Market-Insights-Analysis-Outlook-Leaders-Report-Trends-Forecast-Segmentatio.html). According to the allied market report, North America is going to witness extensive growth in the sodium-ion battery domain with a CAGR of 15.9% in 2021-2031 (https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/sodium-ion-battery-market-A10597).
In the United States, Natron Energy Inc. has already collaborated with Clarios International Inc., which will result in the world’s first mass-produced sodium-ion batteries. The Asia-pacific countries including China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Australia are also going to be key regions for investors and manufacturers.
Figure 10: Sodium-ion battery market analysis (source: custom market insights)
Only time will tell how the sodium-ion industry evolve in the coming future, however, having said that if sodium ion batteries become alternatives to Lithium Ion, this industry is expected to pave the way for the next–generation automobile industry and consumer electronics.
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