Sodium-ion Batteries 2024-2034

Diversification in the Energy Storage Industry is Foreseeable
Among the existing energy storage technologies, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have unmatched energy density and versatility. Since their first commercialization, the growth in LIBs has been driven by portable devices. In recent years, however, large-scale electric vehicles 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.
As the world progresses rapidly towards electrification, the energy storage industry is increasingly reliant on critical raw materials such as lithium and cobalt. Diversification of battery chemistries is critical for long-term capacity growth. It should be self-evident that no single battery chemistry possesses all the attributes for every single application – each market has its nuances and requires unique solutions. The sodium-ion chemistry will certainly not be the answer for all applications; however, it will be well-suited to complement, rather than displace, the existing and future lithium-ion technologies in many applications. Concerns of energy security and geopolitical considerations in the supply chain also drive nations without local access to lithium-ion raw materials to seek alternative chemistries to meet energy storage demands.
Small Pilot Plants and Big Plans
Currently, mainly pilot plants are running, and a few smaller factories are starting up, which only produce a few gigawatt hours (GWh) of Na-ion batteries per year, but the capacities that have been publicly announced by various raw material and battery manufacturers alone add up to well over 100 GWh by 2030. By 2025, significantly more capacity can be built up than that has been financed so far if investors are found for it in the course of 2024. The forecast of a radical conversion of a large part of the industry to a new technology in a few years may sound bold, but in the last five years alone, this has happened twice in the battery industry with NMC811 and LFP. Na-ion requires hardly any new plant technology, just different starting materials, and production parameters. This latest report from IDTechEx covers the global commercialization efforts of Na-ion batteries by analyzing patents and finds that China is taking the lead once again. It covers over 30 players globally with detailed insights into their technology, market fit, and production plans.
Cell specifications, expected applications, and mass production plans of Na-ion battery players. Note: Gen 1 cell specifications as achieved are shown here, with gen 2 cell targeted energy densities listed. Source: IDTechEx.
Significant Savings Over LFP are Unlikely Initially
There is currently no cost-effective battery technology with an energy density between lead and lithium batteries. According to IDTechEx research, the average cell cost for Na-ion batteries is US$87/kWh taking different chemistries into account. By the end of the decade, the production cost of Na-ion battery cells using primarily iron and manganese will probably bottom out at around US$40/kWh, which would be around US$50/kWh at the pack level. Na-ion cells are likely to come at a price premium initially, but IDTechEx expects a drop in cost/price in the short term through manufacturing efficiencies, scale, and technology development. However, long-term cost reductions become harder as technology and manufacturing become more established and mature. The IDTechEx report includes modeling of various Na-ion chemistries with a breakdown of the material and prices.
Sodium is Not the End for Lithium
For most EVs, volumetric energy density is the first or second priority because the more space a battery cell takes up for a given energy density, the fewer cells you can squeeze under a vehicle, limiting range. For grid storage, the space that the battery packs take up doesn’t affect their commercial viability, and the priority is the cost per kWh per cycle. Commercial energy storage is all about cost control, and this is where sodium ions can potentially dominate other chemistries. The greatest potential in transport applications for Na-ion batteries exists wherever the energy density of lithium batteries is not fully utilized. This includes almost all electric cars with a so-called standard range, i.e., reduced battery capacity compared to more expensive models of the same construction. There, sodium batteries with higher charging speeds and less capacity loss in cold temperatures could represent a very attractive alternative. Above all, thanks to this alternative energy storage technology, lithium batteries will be available where they are truly indispensable.
Promising fields of applications for sodium-ion batteries. Source: IDTechEx