Chinese battery leader CATL, which supplies batteries for Tesla, has plans to launch its first commercial sodium-ion battery. The new batteries can be charged up to 80 per cent in 15 minutes and maintain 90 per cent of their charge in temperatures of -20 °C
Lithium batteries power many of today’s devices (smartphones, laptops, etc), but mining the metals needed is invasive and can significantly pollute waterways if not properly disposed of. Like lithium batteries, sodium batteries transport ions between two electrodes. However, sodium ions are bigger and are prone to creating impurities that significantly reduce the battery’s life span. Moreover, they do not match lithium in energetic density.
CATL said in a press release that its researchers have avoided such issues by using a sturdy and porous carbon-based material for the anode. They also altered the structure of another material used in sodium batteries, called Prussian White, rearranging the electrons. With these advancements, CATL plans to launch its first commercial sodium-ion battery.
“As carbon neutrality has become a global consensus, the new energy industry has entered a complex and diversified development stage. The increasingly segmented markets have raised differentiated requirements for batteries,” CATL said.
The performance figures so far are impressive. Whilst the energy density is still lower than that of lithium batteries, 160 Wh/kg vs 285 Wh/kg, it can charge by up to 80 per cent in 15 minutes and can maintain 90 per cent of its charge in temperatures of -20 °C (-4 °F), according to CATL.
To support the transition to sodium-ion batteries, CATL has also released an AB battery system solution. The battery system combines sodium-ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries. By integrating the two, the AB battery system aims to compensate for the lower energy-density shortage of their sodium-ion battery.
CATL says it aims to materialise an industrial chain for deployment by 2023, inviting suppliers, customers and research institutions to jointly accelerate the development of sodium-ion batteries.