Two years ago, Ningde era used a press conference to trigger the industrialization of sodium electricity. In 2023, Nadian finally ushered in its bright moment.
There is no other reason. The reserves of sodium resources on the earth are hundreds of times that of lithium resources. When the price of lithium carbonate rose wildly, and the car factory bluntly said that it was working for lithium mines, the cost advantage of sodium was extremely considerable, and the industrialization process was also accelerated.
On the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show, Chery and CATL jointly officially announced the sodium battery brand "ENER-Q". On February 23, Zhongke Haina held a press conference to launch three sodium-ion battery products, and its high-energy-density battery products were also used in Sihao EX10 Huaxianzi-A00 short-distance vehicles. The large-scale increase in the field of power batteries is the basis for the explosive growth of the sodium battery industry. But for the upstream and downstream of sodium electricity, the anxiety at this time is far greater than the excitement.
The reason lies in the sharp fluctuations in lithium prices, and the exponentially magnified price advantage of sodium batteries, which in turn is weakened exponentially in the ever-falling market. According to data released by Shanghai Steel Union on April 26, the average price of battery-grade lithium carbonate has been reported at 180,000 yuan/ton for three consecutive days.
"At the beginning of the year, sodium electricity may be a huge profit industry. Even if it has not yet formed a large scale, the gross profit rate is still very high. But until recently, if lithium carbonate is really below 100,000 yuan per ton, is the factory still confident to start production? How many GWh?" Wang Zixuan, chairman of Qingna Energy, said that this will test (practitioners) prediction, guts and courage on the price of lithium carbonate.
Can sodium electricity become the next big outlet? Missed the lithium battery market, how to seize the sodium battery? Where will the guts and courage of practitioners come from?
01. Cost! cost! Or cost!
The answer may have to be found from the front line of manufacturing.
At the recent Sodium Power Summit, the most discussed issues among guests were cost and profit. From materials, batteries to manufacturing, the cost of each link was carefully calculated.
Because the manufacturing cost of sodium determines whether the battery factory will continue to invest in large-scale production lines. But its cost does not depend on the raw material price of sodium, but on lithium carbonate.
"When the price of lithium carbonate is 200,000 yuan/ton, the cost of sodium battery and lithium battery under the NFM system is not the same." said Zhao Ruirui, vice president of EVE Lithium Energy Central Research Institute.
When the price falls below 150,000 yuan/ton, the cost advantage of sodium batteries will disappear compared to lithium batteries with higher energy density. Not only will they lose the market for small power batteries, but they will also be basically unusable in the field of energy storage.
Not only that, for sodium batteries that have not yet been mass-produced, auxiliary materials, structural parts and manufacturing costs account for more than 60%, while lithium batteries only account for 43%. "So the cost reduction space for sodium element itself is very small, and the only way to reduce costs is to further expand the battery, reduce production costs and increase energy density." Zhao Ruirui said.
He predicts that in 2023, China's sodium-ion battery companies are expected to achieve shipments of 3-8GWH sodium-ion batteries. If sodium electricity can achieve a market price of <0.6 yuan/WH, the market demand will experience explosive growth, and the market penetration rate will increase significantly.
From the perspective of combing, the consensus of all parties is that the cost of battery materials should be reduced to 0.3-0.4 yuan/Wh, and the gram capacity should reach about 100, so that sodium batteries can show explosive growth.
It is worth noting that, as one of the three technical routes of sodium batteries, Prussian technology was basically not mentioned at the meeting. According to new energy industry experts, this route has been abandoned by most downstream manufacturers, because highly toxic cyanide may be produced during the production and subsequent use of Prussian sodium batteries
02. From zero to one has not been completed
Price isn't the only source of anxiety. Although the industrialization of sodium electricity has reached the first year, the upstream and downstream are still immature.
Different technical routes make the voltage platforms of sodium batteries different, and downstream energy storage companies have to choose multiple types of inverters to adapt and develop more complex BMS power management systems.
For OEMs, to cope with the 1-2V voltage difference of sodium batteries, not only must start with the inverter, but also sodium battery manufacturers must design supporting automotive three-electric system, but currently few companies can do it.
There is currently no consensus on the form of sodium batteries, which will affect the speed of mass production.
On the manufacturing side, the production capacity of cylindrical batteries will be more than 6 times that of prismatic batteries. An actual production line worth hundreds of millions of yuan cannot be changed after selection, and all parties in the industry chain must make choices.
Numerous problems urgently need to be solved make the prospect of sodium electricity more complicated and confusing. Li Shujun, general manager of Zhongke Haina, said bluntly, "The sodium electricity industry is far from being completed from 0 to 1. It will still take 3-5 years to reach the era of 100 GWh."
The speed from zero to one depends on the development of downstream applications, and all cost calculations are also based on market demand in specific fields.
As Li Shujun said: "In the beginning, Zhongke Haina did not want to be a company that started from materials-cells-batteries, but because the needs of specific downstream customers in turn promoted its layout of sodium-electric materials and manufacturing."
In fact, the real opponent of sodium batteries is not lithium batteries, but lead-acid batteries.
At this stage, the application demand potential of sodium-ion batteries in market segments such as energy storage, low-to-medium mileage electric vehicles, engineering vehicles, and small power supplies is relatively large, which is also determined by the performance characteristics of sodium batteries.
According to the statistics of Tianfeng Securities, the overall performance of sodium batteries is close to that of lithium batteries, and the energy density is slightly lower, but the low temperature, safety and rate performance are outstanding. Compared with lead-acid batteries, the cycle life of sodium batteries has an absolute advantage.
Regarding the scale-up of sodium batteries, He Jia, chairman of EAST, said that now the key to sodium batteries is to be used by people, and it is meaningless if there are no users. Just focus on the lead-acid battery market. "In the future, sodium batteries will fully replace lead-acid batteries."
It is worth mentioning that Zhongna Energy, one of the representative companies of the polyanion route, has launched Polyna 1, which is only priced at 599 yuan, equipped with NFS-A1 soft-pack batteries. Polysodium No. 1 is almost branded next to the "lead-acid battery". The cycle life at room temperature and the energy density of a single cell are more than three times that of lead-acid batteries.
At present, lead-acid batteries are mainly used in the two-wheeler market and occupy a dominant position. The proportion of shipments will exceed 70% in 2021. Lithium batteries are only used in mid-to-high-end two-wheelers.
Xiao Bing, president of the Emma Research Institute, said, "The application of sodium electricity in two-wheeled vehicles is very impressive. But the problem of cost and reliability needs to be solved. There are still many unstable factors."
Emma, Xinri and Yadea are companies that have launched sodium battery or sodium electric two-wheelers. The three electric vehicle brands account for more than 60% of the two-wheeler market share.
Generally speaking, under different subdivision scenarios, sodium batteries will perform very well, and will replace a large number of lead-acid batteries, a large market, and supplement the low-end market that lithium batteries cannot cover.