The upward trend in the cost of lithium batterieswho in recent months is set price records on the market, and the limits to pass on these increases to the final price of vehicles, have led to UNITED look for ways to cut costs. This was stated by its executive director, who put on the table the urgent need for his company to reduce production costs. One of the ways to achieve this is to introduce new battery chemistries depending on their product line and therefore their intention to incorporate sodium batteries of 2023.
The sharp increase in the price of lithium batteries does not only concern car manufacturers. Electric two-wheeler companies are also starting to feel the pressure of these rising costs. Last Saturday, China Securities Journal issued a statement from NIU Executive Director Li Yan regarding this situation: “To achieve the same battery life, a sodium-ion battery is heavier than a lithium battery, but it generates a great advantage in terms of cost,” Li said.
With battery prices rising sharply, but vehicle prices rising only slightly, the company must find ways to reduce costs during the production process. After the Covid pandemic, and the increase in the prices of raw materials, in particular lithium, many manufacturers of electric two-wheelers decided to combat this problem by raising prices. On April 1, the NIU itself opted for this strategy by raising prices to its retailers for its entire line of products equipped with lithium batteries. However, this increase is only 7%, much lower than the increases that its competitors have implemented which range from 9 to 15%, according to Li.
In the periodic table, lithium and sodium are neighbors, which means that they offer similar properties and both can be used to make battery cells. Sodium ion battery offer some crucial benefits for manufacturers and owners of electric vehicles: the sustainability of obtaining raw materials, economic accessibility and greater safety. In exchange, they offer a disadvantage to take into account: their low density of energy.
Chinese battery manufacturer CATL was one of the first to introduce its first-generation sodium-ion batteries. Changing the materials and structure of the cell allowed the company to produce a cell with fast charging capability, high thermal stability and consistent low temperature performance.
CATL’s new sodium ion battery cell can achieve energy density of up to 160 Wh/kg which is lower than that offered by the LFP technology (lithium iron phosphate) and is well below the current standard for lithium-ion cells. For comparison, the new Tesla 4680 Cells can reach up to 300 Wh/kg, however, these cells can reach 80% of its energy capacity (SOC), at room temperature, in as little as 15 minutes. The company has already started designing the industrialization of sodium-ion batteries and plans to have its first basic production lines operational by 2023.
Sodium batteries will not replace lithium batteries, but will be an option to use in cost-sensitive market segments with less energy-intensive needs. However, it is expected that replace lead acid batteries according to a report released by Guosen Securities’ analyst team in late July last year.
All these reasons lead us to believe that this type of battery is very suitable for the two-wheeler sector. In fact, NIU already uses non-sodium battery technologies in some of its products. Some of its models are beginning to use nanographene lead-acid batteries, as well as lithium manganese iron phosphate batteries, according to information from China Securities Journal.