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China’s CATL launches sodium-ion battery

China’s CATL unveiled its newly-developed sodium-ion battery at a launch event today.

Wood Mackenzie senior analyst Le Xu said: “CATL is leading the global lithium-ion cell production now, holding 490 GWh of total lithium-ion cell manufacturing capacity. The company is also a top lithium consumer.

“About 93% of CATL’s cell capacity is located in China. Developing sodium-ion battery technology could diversify their raw materials consumption, especially lithium. Battery suppliers such as CATL, Tesla, LG Chem have proactively signed supply agreements with miners in Australia and Chile, which pushed lithium chemicals spot prices to a new high in the past six months.

“It is interesting to see CATL develop an integrated battery management system to accommodate lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery cells under the same battery management system and boost the total energy density of the battery cell. CATL is not the first company to explore cost-efficient battery solutions for clients. Svolt, for example, has developed cobalt-free NMC battery cells in April this year.

“Sodium-ion battery solution could potentially solve cost challenges faced by Chinese renewables developers, bringing energy storage cost down to a new level. It could help China to achieve a carbon neutral target in the future.”

Research analyst Max Reid added: “Sodium-ion technology has long been touted for commercial battery use due to sodium’s low cost and high abundance relative to lithium, and CATL producing large scale sodium-ion batteries shows the technology’s appeal is coming to fruition sooner rather than later.

“The lower energy of the sodium-ion cells suggests that the technology may be more suited for stationary energy storage applications which are less restrictive, while the unveiling of battery packs combining both sodium-ion and lithium-ion cells could point towards compromise in performance for low-cost electric vehicles, with the potential to disrupt the mass market.”