Since 2013, we’ve seen a significant growth in the use of li-ion batteries in the stationary storage market, and lithium-based technologies make up more than one-half of all installations annually. The main factors that have allowed the metal to dominate the storage market include its flexible performance, wide availability and low cost.
Other technologies that have tried to compete with the metal have found it hard to match these factors. This comes at a time when the search for alternatives in the electric vehicle (“EV”) world is at its highest and driven by similar motivations, including fewer and safer constrained raw materials and lower costs. Not many have been found because alternatives must be as compact and light as li-ion batteries; however, some believe sodium-ion systems may be the answer.
Sodium-ion systems are made up of an electrolyte and two electrodes. The only difference between sodium-ion and lithium-ion systems is the fact that sodium-ion systems use sodium, which affords researchers the possibility of using other low-cost materials in the cathode, such as nickel and cobalt.
Sodium-ion systems are set to benefit from the advances in production made in the last 10 years, because they’ll be using the same manufacturing processes that are used in the li-ion industry. The use of similar components and materials — be it aluminum current collectors, separators or electrolytes — means that sodium-ion tech will also benefit from the current economies of scale in the supply chain. This, combined with the low cost of materials like sodium, will make these systems cheaper than li-ion batteries.
Currently, sodium-ion battery systems are being used in the stationary storage industry. However, the lifecycle of a sodium-ion system doesn’t match that of a li-ion battery. For instance, while the best performance of a sodium-ion system is only 4,500 cycles, that of a lithium-ion battery system is about 12,000 cycles.
This suggests that the technology is unlikely to displace the li-ion systems that key players in the market, such as Tesla ,are manufacturing. Despite this, the systems still have a major role to play in less demanding applications, including in the telecoms industry and back-up power.
Sodium-ion system technology isn’t new to the market. CATL, the biggest li-ion battery manufacturer globally, expects to begin commercial production of sodium-ion batteries in 2023, planning to sell the systems at prices lower than that of li-ion batteries. A startup based in the United Kingdom, Faradion, has also licensed its sodium-ion tech to AMTE Power. Additionally, Aquion, a company that went out of business in 2017, had been engaged in the development of sodium batteries.
Sodium batteries aren’t the only alternative chemistry being considered, however. Companies such as StorEn Technologies Inc. are also intent on commercializing redox flow batteries, and these come with advantages over li-ion batteries, including better performance for long-term energy storage.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to StorEn Technologies Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/StorEn
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