BYD lays first stone of 30 GWh sodium-ion battery plant

China’s top-selling automaker has started constructing a factory for sodium-ion batteries in the Xuzhou region. The plant will be scaled up to produce 30 GWh annually, with packs primarily intended for use in scooters, motorcycles, and smaller vehicles.

The factory collaborates with the Chinese tricycle brand HuaiHai through BYD’s subsidiary Findreams Battery. Both partners are adding the project to a previous one in Xuzhou concerning a plant for BYD’s Blade battery, which uses LFP chemistry (lithium-iron-phosphate).

Lower energy density

The investment in the plant for sodium-ion batteries is worth 10 billion yuan (1.4 billion euros) and must help evolve the region into a hub for Giga factories. The merit of sodium-ion chemistry is that it replaces the precious anode material of lithium with the more common sodium, or salt, simultaneously doing away with nickel and cobalt.

The trade-off in bypassing the costly supply chain of such critical earth metals is that these batteries have a low energy density, making them more suitable for minor transportation, like scooters or small cars. They also charge slower but offer the benefit of reduced fire risks, better performance in cold conditions, less environmental impact, and lower production costs.

Competitors

BYD was thought to introduce a sodium-ion pack in the Seagull, but that model launched with the aforementioned Blade battery. There’s no confirmation of which BYD model will debut the salt batteries.

Though BYD is the number one brand in China and is on a roll to dethrone Tesla as the best-selling EV maker worldwide, it is beaten in its homeland by competitors with sodium-ion EVs.

Together with Volkswagen, JAC will start the delivery of the Yiwei with a salt battery later this month, while Ford and Jiangling brought the JMEV EV3 to market just before the year’s end. The latter uses a sodium-ion pack from Farasis Energy.

BYD’s biggest competitor in battery manufacturing, CATL, has also announced that it will enter the market with sodium-ion alternatives with a first product offering from Chery. Over in Europe, Norhtvolt validated its sodium-ion cells in November last year with an energy density of 160 Wh/kg (lithium-ion reaches 200 to 300 Wh/kg).

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