With the continuous improvement of energy density, the cruising range of the power battery has also been improved. Although the cruising range can be extended by increasing the energy density, this method will also bring serious safety hazards. Wang Nianju, executive vice president of Lishen Battery, said: "From 1991 to 2016, battery energy density increased by an average of 5%-8% per year. At present, the bottleneck of 300Wh/kg will stay for a long time."
In other words, it is impossible to increase the cruising range of the power battery by increasing the energy density in a short period of time. You can only start from other directions, such as battery materials. On May 21, Zeng Yuqun revealed at the Ningde Times Shareholders' Meeting that sodium-ion batteries will be released around July this year. This news has aroused widespread concern in the automotive industry.
Sodium ion battery debut
According to the latest statistics of the China Automobile Association, the cumulative sales of domestic new energy vehicles from January to April 2021 reached 732,000, a year-on-year increase of 249.2%, which led to a 241% increase in the installed capacity of power batteries. According to relevant agencies, the global penetration rate of new energy vehicles is expected to reach 20% in 2025, with sales of over 18 million vehicles. In addition to the demand for lithium carbonate from energy storage and 3C consumer electronics, global demand for lithium carbonate is expected to reach 1.24 million tons in 2025, 3.6 times that of 2020.
Judging from the data alone, the demand for lithium carbonate materials will enter a period of rapid growth, but the raw material supply capacity on the supply side is far from reaching the demand. Judging from the information currently available, due to the impact of the epidemic in Australia, Chile, Argentina and other major lithium mine exporting countries, the expansion plans of lithium mine suppliers including SQM and Livent have slowed down, making the industry tight on the supply of power battery raw materials. Worries further intensified.
As of May 18, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate has risen from 38,000 yuan/ton in the “lowest period” last year to 89,000 yuan/ton now; lithium hydroxide has risen from 60,000 yuan/ton to 87,500 yuan/ton. . In this regard, the Secretary-General of the Cobalt Industry Branch of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association pointed out that the current round of lithium industry demand cycle is strong, but due to the mismatch between global supply-side lithium resources and lithium smelting, lithium prices will remain high for longer than expected.
On the one hand, there is insufficient demand for raw materials, and on the other hand, there is a bottleneck period in battery technology. From any point of view, replacing lithium-ion batteries with other metal raw materials has almost become the only option for battery suppliers at the moment.
Why is a sodium ion battery?
In fact, sodium-ion batteries are nothing new. As early as the late 1970s, both sodium-ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries had been studied at the same time. However, due to the limitations of the research conditions at the time and other factors, the research of sodium-ion batteries was slow and stagnant for a long time, and it was not ushered in its development until after 2010.
According to the researchers, sodium ion batteries not only have the advantages of rich sodium resource reserves, wide distribution, low cost, and no development bottleneck, but also better power characteristics, wide temperature range adaptability, safety performance and no overdischarge problems, etc. Advantage.
It is worth mentioning that by using aluminum foil for both positive and negative electrodes, the energy density of sodium ion batteries can be further improved, so that sodium ion batteries can be developed in the direction of low cost and high safety.
Remember that at the "Blade Battery" press conference on March 20, 2020, BYD conducted a complete acupuncture test comparison on ternary lithium batteries, ordinary lithium iron phosphate batteries and "blade batteries". Although the experiment highlighted the safety of the "blade battery", it also created an image of "ternary lithium battery = acupuncture test is not safe" to the public, angering the Ningde era, which is dominated by ternary lithium batteries. Subsequently, the CATL threw out the thesis that "some people equate the passing of the abuse test with battery safety", and they fought each other away from BYD.
Specifically, the sodium-ion battery revealed by the CATL has the characteristics of not being fired or exploding under tests such as overcharge, overdischarge, short circuit, acupuncture, and squeeze. With excellent safety, CATL may be able to make a comeback in the field of battery safety.
Can sodium ion batteries catch fire?
Although sodium ion batteries have the characteristics of low cost, good safety, and easy access to raw materials, can sodium ion really replace lithium ion batteries? At least not in the short term.
First of all, the energy density of sodium-ion batteries is only 80%-90% of that of lithium-ion batteries. From the electrochemical performance of the two, the energy density of lithium ion can reach 150-250Wh/kg, and the cycle life is more than 3000+ times; the sodium ion battery has an energy density of 100-150Wh/kg, cycle life The life span is about 2000 times.
Under this circumstance, after CATL launched the sodium-ion battery in July, it is not very attractive to car companies in a short period of time, because electric vehicles have higher requirements for battery weight and energy density. Especially at this time of fighting for mileage, it is still difficult to successfully attract car companies to purchase in large quantities and apply them to models.
However, the introduction of sodium-ion batteries is not entirely meaningless. Perhaps car companies such as Weilai Automobile are not interested in the battery technology, but for car companies such as SAIC-GM-Wuling that have products in the field of micro-electric vehicles, it is a treasure. ". As we all know, SAIC-GM-Wuling Hongguang MINI EV has won the favor of consumers due to its high cost performance. Since its launch in July 2020, it has ranked first in the sales of new energy vehicles for many consecutive months.
In this case, the introduction of the Ningde era sodium-ion battery may be able to help Wuling Hongguang MINI EV and other micro-electric vehicle products to further reduce costs, and contribute to the expansion of the market. At the same time, micro-electric vehicles may also become the main customers of Ningde era sodium-ion batteries.
In addition to low energy density, the current supply chain of sodium-ion batteries has yet to be improved. Compared with lithium-ion batteries that have been developed for many years, although sodium-ion batteries have made great progress in the past 10 years, they are still lagging behind lithium-ion batteries, and there is a lack of strong companies in the entire supply chain.
to sum up
The introduction of sodium ion batteries will inject new vitality into the development of power batteries. However, judging from the current situation, there are still many shortcomings in sodium-ion batteries, which need time to improve. As the technology of sodium-ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries are similar, so in the development process, sodium-ion batteries can learn from the technology of lithium-ion batteries to the greatest extent, and the development speed of sodium-ion batteries will be further improved.