China’s CATL unveils sodium-ion battery – a first for a major car battery maker

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Sign of Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) is seen on its building in Ningde
FILE PHOTO: A sign of Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) is seen on its building in Ningde, Fujian province, China August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

July 29, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s CATL on Thursday became the first major automotive battery maker to unveil a sodium-ion battery, saying it planned to set up a supply chain for the new technology in 2023.

As electric vehicles become increasingly popular, demand for key battery ingredients, particularly cobalt, has spiked. That has spurred car and battery makers to seek alternatives to the current three main technologies – nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA), nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.

The sodium-ion batteries do not contain lithium, cobalt or nickel. It did not disclose cost details of the new batteries.

CATL, China’s top car battery maker with a market value of almost $200 billion, also unveiled a battery pack that integrates sodium-ion and lithium-ion batteries.

The energy density of its new sodium-ion batteries is still lower than that of LFP batteries, Huang Qisen, deputy head of CATL’s research centre told an online briefing. But he added that they perform well in cold-weather and fast-charging scenarios.

CATL, which competes with Japan’s Panasonic Corp and South Korea’s LG Chem, has over 5,000 researchers, its chairman, Zeng Yuqun, told the briefing.

It is also developing other technologies that integrate battery cells directly onto an electric vehicle’s frame to extend its driving range.

Automakers that CATL supplies include Tesla Inc, Volkswagen AG and Geely.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Tony Munroe; editing by Edwina Gibbs and Jason Neely)