Chinese power battery giant CATL's statement about the upcoming launch of sodium-ion batteries has sparked widespread discussion, although analysts generally agree that the new batteries are unlikely to replace lithium-ion batteries for powering electric vehicles in the short term. Instead, there may be a place for the technology in the energy storage sector.
Last Friday, Robin Zeng, founder of NIO and Tesla's battery supplier CATL, said at a shareholder meeting that the company will release sodium-ion batteries around July this year.
This means that the power battery technology will see a major innovation. Zeng said sodium-ion batteries are likely to be more expensive than lithium-ion batteries because they are a new concept.
According to industry insiders, the current development of electric vehicles is in the direction of lightweight, and the energy density of sodium-ion batteries is smaller than lithium-ion batteries, making them unlikely to replace lithium batteries in the field of new energy vehicles.
Zhongtai Securities said in a recent report that lithium-ion batteries are still the mainstream technology route for new energy vehicle batteries, and the future application scenarios for sodium-ion batteries may mainly focus on energy storage, low-speed new energy vehicles, and small power fields.
CATL announced its plans for sodium-ion batteries at a time when commodity prices are generally rising.
Industry insiders believe that the rising prices of upstream raw materials for lithium batteries have put cost pressure on battery suppliers, and the launch of sodium battery products is a reflection of CATL's diversified product strategy.
It is also worth noting that if all-electric cars in the world use lithium-ion batteries, and the electricity is stored in lithium-ion batteries, then lithium resources are simply not enough.
Chen Liquan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, called on the industry at the China EV100 Forum to definitely consider introducing new batteries, with sodium-ion batteries being the first choice.
A 2018 report by the US Geological Survey shows that global lithium reserves are about 53 million tons. Of this, Argentina has 18.5 percent, Bolivia 17.0 percent, Chile 15.8 percent, China 13.2 percent, the US 12.8 percent, and Australia 9.4 percent.
Although China owns the world's fourth-largest lithium reserves, 80 percent of the supply of lithium resources relies on imports and is the world's number one importer of lithium resources.
So far this year, the prices of products such as lithium hexafluorophosphate in the field of electrolyte, lithium carbonate in the upstream of cathode materials, and petroleum coke and needle coke in the upstream of cathode materials have increased significantly.
With the rapid development of China's new energy vehicle industry, lithium batteries need to consume a large number of lithium resources as the core components.
Some industry insiders said that although lithium performance is good, there are limited reserves, high prices, and other drawbacks. Over-reliance on a single energy storage resource will make the industry face higher production costs in the future, and over-reliance on imports is not conducive to energy storage safety.