Look Out Lithium
New Battery is Attracting Investors and EV Makers
Lithium is number three on the periodic table. It’s the most popular battery material on the planet today…but its neighbor is on the rise.
Sodium sits directly below lithium in the list of alkali metals. It’s the sixth most abundant element on earth and makes up 2.6% of the crust. To put that in perspective, lithium makes up just 0.0007% of the earth’s crust.
The reason lithium is so popular in batteries, according to the MIT Technology Review, is its size. Lithium is the third-lightest element after just hydrogen and helium. With weight being a critical part of battery efficiency in cars, lighter is better.
However, sodium is only slightly heavier than lithium. And the key to building a better battery is energy density. And Sweden’s Northvolt AB made a competitive sodium battery.
Northvolt said it made a breakthrough in sodium battery technology. Northvolt’s battery doesn’t use lithium, nickel, cobalt, or graphite. It’s a sodium-ion battery. The company states that it has a validated best in class energy density of 160 watt-hours per kilogram according to the company.
Chief Executive Officer Peter Carlsson said in a press release:
“Our sodium-ion technology delivers the performance required to enable energy storage with longer duration than alternative battery chemistries, at a lower cost.”
Northvolt is an established battery maker, founded in 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden. Clients such as BMW, Fluence, Scania, Volvo, and Volkswagen have ordered $55 billion worth of its batteries. It claims that the sodium batteries are more cost effective and safer at high temperatures than lithium-ion.
Sodium batteries are also being built in China. Electric vehicle maker BYD Co. signed a deal to build a $1.4 billion sodium-ion battery plant. And China’s CATL is using sodium-ion batteries in EVs sold in 2023.
Interestingly, these batteries could reduce China’s dominance of the battery market.
China produces about 60% of the refined metals used in lithium-ion batteries. This came about because China was an early adopter of EVs and batteries. However, sodium-ion batteries are so new, there will be a more even start for developing the necessary infrastructure. And it could shift to Europe, with Northvolt’s emergence.
The emergence of sodium-ion batteries should be good for the EV market. It offers competition to the existing battery model. As long as it can produce competitive power, its lower cost will be attractive. And that will draw some demand away from lithium-ion batteries, lowering their cost as well.
In general, this should be good for the long-term adoption of electric vehicles.
For the Good,
The Mangrove Investor Team
Numbers You Need to Know
Pure sodium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807 through the electrolysis of caustic soda (NaOH). (Jlab)
Located 1800 feet under Lake Huron, the Compass Minerals’ Goderich salt mine, is the largest underground salt mine in the world. (Compass Minerals)
Despite uncertainties, Dubai outcomes represent opportunity for investors. (Top1000Funds)
All of the recent pushback against ESG has finally prompted the sustainable investing world to mount a response – one that is increasingly organized, and, it seems, well-funded. (Investment News)