EVs Could Get More Affordable as Sodium-Ion Batteries Take Root

October 16, 2023 13:52:28

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) may become affordable enough for the average driver if automakers adopt sodium-ion batteries. The standard battery in most BEVs is the classic lithium-ion battery, which relies on positively charged lithium ions to create free electrons and build up a charge.

Battery makers have had decades to perfect lithium-ion battery technology, and it was the obvious go-to once companies such as Tesla began developing electric vehicles for the mass market. However, lithium-ion batteries require several rare and expensive minerals to build, making EV batteries incredibly costly to manufacture. Since the battery is the most expensive component in an electric car, costly batteries have pushed EV prices to nearly unaffordable levels.

Even with government subsidies and tax incentives, the initial cost of EV ownership is simply too high for most drivers. High EV prices have been a major barrier to electric vehicle adoption since the young industry’s inception and could prevent the United States and other nations from achieving their carbon emission goals. As such, it is crucial that battery and carmakers invest in new technologies that can bring down EV costs without affecting product quality.

For battery makers, sodium-ion batteries present an opportunity for significant cost savings. In a typical lithium-ion battery, the movement of positively charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode generates electricity. Lithium works effectively as an electrolyte as its ions are light and small, allowing more lithium ions to be packed into electrodes without compromising their speed.

As such, lithium-ion batteries can fully charge in as little as 20 minutes. Replacing lithium with sodium could solve the issue of limited supply as sodium is thousands of times more abundant in nature compared to lithium. The sodium used in batteries can be sourced from salt-lake brines and rocks or even manufactured from salt and limestone, which are just as abundant.

Sodium-ion batteries have the potential to solve the battery supply chain issue and even allow the U.S. to wean itself off of China, which currently has a monopoly on the global EV battery market. The downside to this battery design is that sodium ions are one-third larger and three times heavier than lithium ions, meaning sodium-ion batteries will have to be heavier and thicker to hold a similar amount of charge.

Recent breakthroughs in the sodium-ion battery space may make sodium batteries better as time passes. Researchers have developed sodium batteries that leverage lithium iron phosphate cathodes (LFP) to bring down battery costs by around 20%. Layered oxide cathodes have also been used to create energy-dense sodium and affordable battery designs capable of delivering 150 to 250 miles.

As the battery chemistries deployed in the EV industry become more cost efficient and deliver superior performance, manufacturers such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO) could see their models soar in popularity as more people find their cost to be within reach.

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