Next year, Natron Energy and Clarios will begin production of commercial sodium-ion batteries at the factory where Li-Ion batteries have been manufactured so far. Sodium-ion batteries are suitable for industrial applications where volume and weight do not matter so much. They offer super-fast charging, monstrous durability and high safety.
They don’t like to hear this in China. California-based Natron Energy, in partnership with Clarios, will begin mass production of its sodium-ion batteries in Michigan next year. These batteries have an enormous lifespan, a decent density of stored energy, are very safe, and also charge very quickly. And of course, there’s not a bit of lithium in them.
Today’s rechargeable batteries still rely on lithium in the vast majority of cases. Unfortunately, this is a rather problematic raw material. According to lithium consumption estimates, known lithium deposits are not sufficient for this demand in the foreseeable future. Even worse, the vast majority of the global lithium supply chain is owned by China. Only a fool would think that China will not use it whenever it suits her.
Therefore, it is very important to look for working alternatives to lithium batteries. In recent years, among other things, sodium-ion batteries have appeared. They are also working on it in China, where CATL last year introduced a commercial sodium-ion battery for electric vehicles, with a stored energy density of 160 Wh / kg. That’s just over half compared to commercial lithium-ion batteries for similar purposes.
Natron used a different technology based on a different chemistry. Its key element is the famous blue pigment Prussian (or also Parisian) blue (ferrous hexacyanoferrate). According to Natron, their batteries are the result of compromises and innovations. Its main advantages are super-fast charging – from 0 to 99 percent in 8 minutes, a monstrous service life of over 50,000 cycles and the density of stored energy, which is between lead-acid and Li-Ion batteries. Last but not least, they are very thermally stable, which significantly increases their safety.
On the other hand, the stored energy density is still relatively low, both in terms of weight and battery volume. Therefore, Natron does not seem to target conventional electric vehicles, where weight and volume matter a lot. Their sodium-ion battery should be used as an industrial battery, for example as a backup for data centers or local distribution networks, industrial vehicle propulsion, telecommunications equipment and the like.
Production of these batteries will begin at the Clarios Meadowbrook plant in Michigan. Today, they produce lithium-ion batteries there, but according to Natron, it is relatively easy to change production to sodium-ion batteries. Using an existing factory will save a lot of costs. At the moment, it looks like Clarios Meadowbrook will be the largest factory for sodium-ion batteries in the world at the start of production.
Video: Natron High Performance Sodium Battery