① The decline in lithium prices in the first half of the year had an impact on the industrialization process, but with the development of the sodium battery industry chain and breakthroughs in application projects, it foreshadows its market potential. ② Industry insiders said that the current cost of sodium batteries can be as low as 0.4 yuan/wh, but the industry's focus on the progress of industrialization of sodium batteries at this stage has shifted from cost comparison to differentiation of application scenarios.
Financial News Agency, December 3 (Reporters Zeng Chuchu and Li Zijian) Although the decline in lithium prices in the first half of the year had an impact on the industrialization process, the development of the sodium battery industry chain and breakthroughs in application projects all foreshadowed its market potential.
At the 8th International Summit for Power Battery Applications, co-hosted by the China Chemical and Physical Power Industry Association and Battery China Network, industry insiders said that the current cost of sodium batteries can be as low as 0.4 yuan/wh, but industry insiders' focus on the progress of industrialization of sodium batteries at this stage has shifted from cost comparison to segmentation scenarios such as low temperature and magnification performance requirements. At the same time, participants believe that sodium batteries are expected to be mass-produced in small batches in the field of energy storage next year.
Cost reduction is still not comparable to lithium iron phosphate
Recently, the “General Specification for Sodium-Ion Batteries” (“Sodium Battery Specification”) group standard guided by the China Chemical and Physical Power Industry Association was officially released. The standard covers three application areas. The first is electric vehicles, the second is small power and light power, and the third is energy storage.
According to information, under the guidance of the China Chemical and Physical Power Industry Association, the Power Battery Application Branch took the lead and joined 38 relevant enterprises and research institutes, including representative battery manufacturers and upstream and downstream suppliers in the field of sodium-ion batteries, to set up a standards working group to formulate and publish group standards for sodium batteries.
Since this year, all links in the sodium battery industry chain have implemented mass production capacity to varying degrees, and sodium-electric application projects have also made some breakthrough progress, continuously promoting the acceleration of sodium-ion batteries towards large-scale application.
However, due to falling lithium prices in the first half of this year, the industrialization of sodium batteries fell short of expectations. Wang Kang, assistant director of Penghui Energy Storage and Power Battery Research Institute, once publicly stated, “The main reason (slow progress) is actually cost. The so-called industrialization is essentially cost control. The biggest reason currently limiting sodium batteries (industrialization) is that sodium batteries are too expensive compared to lithium batteries.”
As of December of this year, at the 8th International Summit on Power Battery Applications, industry insiders recently revealed that the cost of sodium batteries has been further reduced compared to the first half of the year.
Zou Jiayi, deputy general manager of Jiangsu Chuanyi Sodium Electronics Technology, said that the current manufacturing cost of sodium-ion batteries is about 0.45-0.5 yuan/wh. It is expected that under the scale effect and the gradual improvement of the industrial chain, the cost is expected to be further reduced.
Kang Libin, director of the Zhongke Sea Sodium Marketing Center, said at the conference that it is possible for sodium-ion batteries to be within 0.6 yuan (/wh), 0.4 yuan or even lower. “Currently, the scale of development is relatively small, and the cost is relatively high.”
Although progress in reducing the cost of sodium batteries is progressing, the price is still not comparable to that of lithium iron phosphate batteries. A reporter from the Financial Association News Agency learned from industry insiders that along with the continuous decline in lithium prices to around 130,000 yuan/ton and fierce competition due to structural excess capacity in lithium batteries, the price of lithium iron batteries is still lower than that of sodium batteries.
However, the focus of industry insiders on the progress of industrialization of sodium batteries at this stage has shifted from cost comparison to differentiation of application scenarios, that is, the low temperature and magnification performance of sodium batteries are remarkable.
Kang Libin said, “In the case of sodium batteries, the more important value is not low cost. The core value is the stability of the supply chain. Currently, it is 7 or 8 cents. The foreseeable future will go lower, and there will be no ups and downs. This is a more valuable place than the low cost of sodium-ion batteries.”
Sodium battery orders are shipped in small batches
A reporter from the Financial Association News Agency learned earlier that the production capacity for the sodium battery material side continues to be implemented, and there are already a large number of orders. Some material-side and battery-side companies have reported insufficient production capacity construction, making it difficult to deliver orders.
Chen Jian, director of Huayu New Energy Power Battery Research Institute, said that the company has launched the first-generation sodium-ion battery Extreme Sodium-1 product, and is currently being used in small batches on two-wheelers. According to reports, Huayu New Energy is wholly owned by Yadi Technology Group Co., Ltd.
Chen Jian said that at present, 5 models are on the 3C catalogue, some investment has been made in small batches, more models will be launched next year, and all mass production lines have been adjusted. “So within the small momentum, our progress has been relatively smooth.”
Hu Mingchang, technical director of Sino-Belgian New Energy, said at the conference that this year, the company cooperated with Zhongke Hysa and Huabao Xinneng (301327.SZ), and mass-produced products have been certified and sold at an early stage. It is expected that 2024 will gradually increase volume and enter the entire product life cycle.
Zou Jiayi said that the first phase of the company's 4.5GWh production line was completed and put into operation at the end of May this year, and orders and sales have now been fulfilled.
Looking at listed companies, Ordutong (002768.SZ) recently revealed from an interactive platform that the company's sodium battery orders are growing significantly. In August of this year, Plutong stated on an interactive platform that the company has achieved small-scale mass production of 18650 sodium batteries and other models, and has now signed orders for about 400,000 to 500,000 units. In September, it was stated once again that the company has taken the lead in mass production of multiple-rate sodium-ion batteries, and so far it has signed orders for more than one million units.
It is worth noting that the Finance Association reporter learned from industry insiders that the current downstream application areas for sodium battery orders are not in the motorcycle field as anticipated by the industry in the early stages, but mainly from fields that pay more attention to magnification and low temperature performance, such as start/stop power supplies and backup power supplies.
There may be a breakthrough in sodium battery energy storage next year
In terms of energy storage applications, since cost and cycle performance have not yet been able to compete with lithium batteries, the application of sodium-ion batteries in energy storage is in a relatively advanced state.
According to information, the energy density of sodium batteries is low. Currently, it is 100 to 160 Wh/kg, and some are even less than 100 Wh/kg, while lithium ion batteries are basically around 150 to 250 Wh/kg. Furthermore, most sodium batteries have a cycle life of about 2000-4000 cycles, and lithium batteries have a cycle life of about 4,000 to 6,000 times.
This means that for power batteries where the main demand is high energy density, the application of sodium batteries is limited. For energy storage, not only high energy density but also long cycle life is required, so compared to lithium batteries, the application of sodium batteries in both power and energy storage fields is limited.
However, in the energy storage market, sodium batteries are also recognized as “potential stocks.” Polyanion, on the other hand, is the main cathode material route used in sodium batteries for energy storage.
Chen Jian said that energy storage includes large energy storage and small to medium household energy storage. The two scenarios require different characteristics. In terms of household storage, stratified oxides can now be basically tested. However, for large storage, electricity costs cannot be reduced without a long cycle life. In the field of energy storage, we can expect the maturity of polyanionic compound systems.
Chen Jian said that the current polyanionic compound system has very good performance at low temperatures, and can release 90% of electricity at minus 20 degrees. “I think that in the large storage of polyanionic compounds, manufacturers will gradually enter mass production in small batches next year.”