Sodium-ion batteries could replace existing lithium-ion technology following the successful test of the world’s first sodium-ion powered e-bike, produced by British company Faradion.
Despite only having been in development for four years, the sodium-ion technology already offers a comparable energy density and performance to that of existing lithium-ion batteries.
Faradion also claims that sodium-ion batteries have significant advantages as they can be produced at around 30 per cent lower cost thanks to the abundance of sodium salts – which cost one tenth of the price of equivalent salts in lithium-ion batteries – and lower electrolyte costs.
“What we’re saying is with sodium-ion, performance-wise we are equivalent to lithium-ion, safety-wise we have numerous advantages, and cost-wise we’ve got clear advantages,” explained Dr Ruth Sayers, manager of Faradion’s prototype facility, speaking exclusively to E&T.
As well as the lower cost of the initial materials, producing sodium-ion batteries would also be cheaper as they could be manufactured using the same methods and equipment as those used to make lithium-ion batteries.
Sayers said: “Cost-wise off the batteries, we are looking at a third [off] compared to lithium-ion. We are [also] talking about comparable production rates [because] one of the aspects is [that] you can produce a sodium-ion battery on exactly the same manufacturing line that you produce a lithium-ion one in terms of the equipment, the method of making them, the technology that’s actually required to build those cells. Really, the cost saving is about your starting materials.”
The sodium-ion batteries can also be transported in a much safer manner than their lithium-ion alternatives, as the batteries are able to be discharged to 0V and then stored and transported. Lithium-ion batteries have to be transported in a charged state, which leaves them vulnerable to fire risks.
Faradion initially developed the sodium-ion technology to be used primarily for energy storage, but with the successful demonstration of the “proof of concept” e-bike it could now be put to use in other applications, such as electric vehicles, thanks to their performance against lithium-ion products already on the market.
Sayers said: “You could literally put a lithium-ion and a sodium-ion side-by-side and if they if weren’t labelled there is nothing to tell you what the difference would be.”