With battery costs rising sharply but vehicle prices rising at a limited rate, Niu needs to find ways to reduce costs, its CEO said.
With the price of lithium batteries rising sharply, two-wheeled electric vehicle companies are also beginning to face cost pressures.
Niu Technologies is looking for new alternative batteries and plans to launch its first two-wheeled electric bike with sodium-ion batteries in 2023, China Securities Journal quoted Li Yan, CEO of the high-end Chinese electric bike maker, as saying Saturday.
Sodium-ion batteries are heavier than lithium batteries at the same range, but have a cost advantage, Li said.
With battery costs rising sharply but vehicle prices rising only marginally, the company needs to find ways to cut costs elsewhere, Li said.
Many two-wheeled electric vehicle manufacturers have raised prices due to factors including the Covid epidemic and raw material price increases, especially for lithium batteries.
Niu raised the retail prices of its entire line of products equipped with lithium batteries on April 1, ranging from RMB 200 ($30) to RMB 1,000.
The price increase for Niu's products is only 7 percent, which is lower than the 9 to 15 percent price increases that competitors have seen over the same period, Li said.
Last July 29, Chinese power battery giant CATL unveiled its first-generation sodium-ion battery, bringing the new power battery technology to greater attention.
CATL said its first-generation sodium-ion battery has a slightly lower energy density than current lithium iron phosphate batteries. However, it has significant advantages in low-temperature performance and fast charging, especially in high-power application scenarios and in alpine regions.
The battery's single-cell energy density has reached 160Wh/kg, the highest level in the world, CATL said at the time.
The company has already started the industrialization layout of sodium-ion batteries and plans to form a basic industrial chain in 2023, CATL said.
CATL will put a sodium-ion battery production line into production in 2022, its executive Meng Xiangfeng said at a forum last September.
Sodium-ion batteries are less likely to replace lithium-ion batteries, and the two will meet the application needs of different market segments, but are expected to replace lead-acid batteries in the future, Guosen Securities analyst Tang Xuxia's team said in a report at the end of July last year.
Sodium-ion batteries are suitable for fields with low energy density requirements but cost-sensitive, and will be mainly used in energy storage and two-wheeled vehicles, the team said.
Back to Niu, the company is already using other new types of batteries in addition to considering sodium-ion batteries.
Some of Niu's models are starting to use nano-graphene lead-acid batteries as well as lithium manganese iron phosphate batteries, the China Securities Journal report said.
Niu expects global sales of 1.5 million to 1.7 million units in 2022, with 1.3 million to 1.5 million units sold in China and 200,000 to 300,000 scooters sold in overseas markets, the report noted.