GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Lithium-ion batteries are every where these days. From your phone to cars to calculators to satellites, they are up for many tasks and demands. But as researchers perfected the lithium-ion battery, increasing its energy density year after year, the carbon footprint in the production of these batteries has also ballooned. And it’s not just lithium mining that is causing environmental concerns, but the mining of cobalt and nickel as well, two rare metals that can substantially increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. As the availability of those metals has waned compared to skyrocketing demand, new research in other battery technology, specifically sodium-ion batteries, has taken off.
Sodium-ion battery technology has been around since the 90s, but due to the batteries having a shorter life-span and more weight than their lithium-ion counterparts (sodium weighs more than lithium), sodium-ion technology took a back seat. It was not completely abandoned, and as new battery technology was developed in the early 2000, sodium-ion batteries became more efficient. When costs of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries started to climb in 2020 and 2021, battery makers looked for alternatives, especially as EV makers looked to up production and cut costs. Now Chinese automaker JAC is using the cheaper batteries in some of their shorter range EVs. The attempt to get a more affordable electric car to market, specifically to those who spend more time in a city setting, is seen as trend setting in the auto world.
Here in the U.S., the push towards more sodium-ion batteries is just as strong, but is going in a slightly different direction. With the adoption of solar and wind power by businesses and private citizens, energy storage has been pushed to the forefront of the green energy movement. Stationary batteries provide a perfect opportunity for the sodium-ion batteries to thrive. The excess weight of the battery is of no importance for stationary batteries, so the drawbacks from an EV perspective don’t apply and give consumers a cheaper option than lithium-ion batteries.
The potential growth of sodium-ion and other non-lithium-ion base batteries is high in the U.S., which should be seen as a positive for the environment, automakers, cell phone companies and your wallet.