JAC, China’s partly state-owned EV maker, controlled by Volkswagen, has launched the world’s first mass-produced electric car, equipped with a sodium-ion (Na+ ) battery pack, a promising cheaper alternative to today’s lithium-ion batteries.
The advantage of Na-ion batteries is the natural abundance and lower cost of sodium compared to lithium. In addition, Na-ion batteries are said to be more resistant to cold temperatures and stable and safer (non-flammable). Still, soo far, they haven’t offered the same energy density which determines an EV range to a great extent.
250 km of range?
The exact figures are not known yet, but apparently, it would be a Sehol E10X city car, rebadged under Anhui Jianghuai Automobile’s (JAC) new Yiwei brand. The Sehol prototype presented in February 2023 had a sodium-ion battery of HiNa Battery Technology’s cylindrical cells packed into JAC’s honeycomb design. That battery had a capacity of 25 kWh and an energy density of 120 Wh/kg, suitable for a (CLTC-)range of 250 km.
Volkswagen co-owns 50% of JAC’s parent company, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Holdings (JAG), after a 1 billion euro investment in 2020. With a 75% stake in JAC itself, it controls the Chinese EV maker and decided to drop the Sehol brand name for JAC or Yiwei in the future.
CATL aims at higher density
China’s biggest battery maker, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), was the first to unveil a first generation of its sodium-ion batteries in its Tech Zone online event in 2021. CATL says it has found a way to solve the primary barrier preventing Na-ion batteries from becoming a viable alternative for Li-ion.
CATL said at that time, it was getting close to an energy density of 160 Wh/kg, aiming at 200 Wh/kg. That means that the batteries can store 160 watt-hours of electricity in 1 kilogram of battery. Lithium-ion batteries have one of the highest energy densities of any battery technology today, ranging from 150 on average to 265 Wh/kg, nearing 300 Wh/kg.
BYD to build sodium-ion cell factory
According to the battery maker, the first automaker to use its Na-ion batteries would be Chery Auto’s iCar brand, but since the announcement in April 2023, no progress has been made. But China’s second-biggest battery maker and giant carmaker, BTD (Build Your Dreams), also works on sodium-ion batteries.
BYD’s subsidiary Findreams Battery announced an agreement with bicycle and tricycle giant Huaihai Group in November to build the world’s biggest sodium-ion battery plant with 30 GWh yearly output in Xuzhou, halfway between Beijing and Shanghai. They will be primarily aimed at scooters and micro-cars, as they will benefit most from cheaper but less performant Na+ batteries.