China’s leading electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) unveiled at its online Tech Zone event its first sodium-ion battery for electric vehicles.

The company said this was a milestone event in its quest for alternative materials for its batteries with analysts expecting shortages of mainstream materials, such as nickel-sulphate, to emerge by 2025 as global demand for EVs continues to rise.

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The company said in a statement “sodium-ion batteries will provide a new solution for the use of clean energy and transportation electrification, thus promoting the early realisation of the goal of carbon neutrality”.

CATL said its new AB battery pack integrates sodium-ion cells and lithium-ion cells into one pack. It claims the new sodium-ion battery can achieve an energy-density of 160Wh/kg and can be 80% recharged in 15 minutes.

CATL founder and chairman Robin Zeng Yuqun said “sodium-ion batteries are compatible and complementary with lithium-ion batteries. Diversified technical routes are also an important guarantee for the long-term development of the industry”.

The company said “sodium-ion batteries have a similar working principle to the lithium-ion batteries. Sodium ions also shuttle between the cathode and anode. However, compared with lithium ions, sodium ions have a larger volume and higher requirements regarding structural stability and the kinetic properties of materials. This has become a bottleneck for the industrialisation of sodium-ion batteries”.

To improve performance CATL said it had “applied Prussian white material with a higher specific capacity and redesigned the bulk structure of the material by rearranging the electrons, which solved the worldwide problem of rapid capacity fading upon material cycling. In terms of anode materials, CATL has developed a hard carbon material that features a unique porous structure, which enables the abundant storage and fast movement of sodium ions, and also an outstanding cycle performance”.