Sodium-ion Batteries 2023-2033: Technology, Players, Markets, and Forecasts

Introduction to sodium-ion batteries
Among the existing energy storage technologies, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have unmatched energy density and versatility. From the time of their first commercialization, the growth in LIBs has been driven by portable devices. In recent years, however, large-scale electric vehicle and stationary applications have emerged. Because LIB raw material deposits are unevenly distributed and prone to price fluctuations, these large-scale applications have put unprecedented pressure on the LIB value chain, resulting in the need for alternative energy storage chemistries. The sodium-ion battery (SIB or Na-ion battery) chemistry is one of the most promising “beyond-lithium” energy storage technologies. Within this report, the prospects and key challenges for the commercialization of SIBs are discussed.
Sodium-ion batteries are an emerging battery technology, on the cusp of commercialization, with promising cost, safety, sustainability and performance benefits when compared to lithium-ion batteries. They can use widely available and inexpensive raw materials and existing lithium-ion production methods, promising rapid scalability. SIBs are an attractive prospect in meeting global demand for carbon-neutral energy storage, where lifetime operational cost, not weight or volume, is the overriding factor. Increasingly sodium-ion batteries have characteristics comparable to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, suggesting that even automotive applications are possible.
SIBs have the same fundamental working principle as LIBs, but rely on sodium rather than lithium as mobile cations. Unlike lithium, sodium does not electrochemically alloy with aluminium at room temperature. Thus, the copper current collector on the anode can be replaced by cheaper aluminium; it not only lowers the SIB costs, but also reduces the transportation risks, as SIBs can be transported completely discharged, at 0V. Hard carbon is typically used as the anode active material instead of graphite, as crystalline graphite has poor storage capabilities for sodium ions. Various cathode chemistries based on layered transition metal oxides, polyanionic compounds, and Prussian Blue Analogues can be used. Electrolytes and separators, as well as the positive current collectors, are similar to LIBs, except for the use of sodium salts in the electrolyte. This report compares Na-ion materials and chemistries including cell cost breakdowns to evaluate their market potential.
A schematic representation of a sodium-ion cell. Source: IDTechEx
What markets exist for sodium-ion batteries?
Although Na-ion technology mimics Li-ion with similar types of electrodes and electrolytes, Na is three times heavier than Li and has redox potential 300mV lower, which inherently reduces the energy density of Na-ion technology by at least ∼30% compared to Li-ion. This gap will prevail forever, because progress that could be made at the materials level for Na will always be mirrored with progresses on Li, since we are dealing with the same family of materials. So straightforwardly, the usage of Na-ion technology alone in applications requiring high energy density, such as battery electric cars is partly eliminated. However, in applications where energy density is not as critical for e.g. stationary energy storage, electric two- and three-wheelers, and electric microcars, Na-ion batteries can be ideal due to their power, safety, and cost characteristics. Currently, very few players have commercial products on the market, and even those with products available are supplying in limited quantities for trial projects to verify the use-case of Na-ion batteries. IDTechEx expects new announcements and partnerships to be announced as Na-ion battery technology moves from the research to commercialization stage in the medium term.
Promising fields of applications for sodium-ion batteries. Source: IDTechEx
Industrial developments
IDTechEx has identified around 15 companies developing their own Na-ion battery technology to match the expected application of its product, in an environment where multiple candidate materials are available. Faradion (UK), for example, is focusing on achieving high energy density, while Natron Energy (US) is pursuing the development of a battery with a long cycle life. Faradion was bought out by India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries at the end of 2021 with plans to use the acquired technology at its proposed giga-factory in India. In May 2022, Natron Energy announced that the company and Clarios, a US major automotive lead-acid battery manufacturer, will begin mass production of Na-ion batteries in 2023. As for other mass production plans, Chinese companies, including CATL amongst others, announced that it will launch the commercial marketing of its first product by 2023, with all others planning to achieve commercialisation before 2025. Behind the acceleration of Chinese companies’ efforts toward Na-ion battery mass production are government measures aimed at ensuring a stable supply of batteries and maintaining leadership in the battery industry. HiNa Battery, which became independent from the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2017, is one of the most notable Na-ion battery startups, with the largest successful deployment of a 1MWh battery system for solar storage. HiNa plan to operate one of the largest GWh class Na-ion battery production lines of 5GWh, with 1GWh capacity being officially completed in July 2022.
This report provides analysis and reporting of such key Na-ion players including those in the supply chain. It offers further detailed company analysis such as technology analysis, product introduction, roadmap, financial/funding, materials, cell specification, manufacturing, supply chain, partnerships, patent analysis, future business, and SWOT analysis.