Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) has unveiled its first sodium-ion battery, which it hopes to form a supply chain for by 2023. The new battery does not contain lithium, cobalt or nickel, which the company says makes it a more cost-effective alternative to the likes of nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries that are currently available.
The sodium-ion battery has a similar working principle to the lithium-ion battery. Sodium ions also shuttle between the cathode and anode, but have a larger volume and higher requirements regarding structural stability and the kinetic properties of materials compared with lithium ions.
The company said it came up with novel solutions to address these issues. In terms of cathode materials, it applied Prussian white material with a higher specific capacity and redesigned the bulk structure of the material by rearranging the electrons to solve the issue of rapid capacity fading upon material cycling.
As for the anode aspect, a hard carbon material with a unique porous structure was developed, enabling abundant storage and a rapid movement of sodium ions as well as an outstanding cycle performance. Based on these innovations, CATL claims that its sodium-ion battery offers high-energy density, fast-charging capability, excellent thermal stability, great low-temperature performance and high-integration efficiency, among others.
The energy density of sodium-ion battery cell can achieve up to 160 Wh/kg, and the battery can charge in 15 minutes to 80% SOC at room temperature. While that density is still lower than that of LFP batteries, the sodium-ion design performs well in cold-weather and fast-charging scenarios, said Huang Qisen, deputy head of CATL’s research centre.
At -20°C, the sodium-ion battery has a capacity retention rate of more than 90%, and its system integration efficiency can reach more than 80%. More importantly, energy density is expected to increase as the tech progresses – the company says it is aiming to get the next generation of sodium-ion batteries to exceed 200 Wh/kg.
The debut of the new sodium-ion battery also saw the Chinese battery manufacturer introducing its AB battery pack solution, which allows sodium-ion cells and lithium-ion cells to be mixed and matched in series or parallel configuration and integrated into a single battery system, with both battery systems controlled through a battery management solution algorithm.
According to CATL, the AB battery system solution can compensate for the current energy-density shortage of the sodium-ion battery, while taking advantage of its high power and performance in low temperatures.
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