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Sodium-ion batteries are gaining traction thanks to a 'game-changing' new partnership: 'The battery of the future'

"This could very well become a game changer."

Sodium-ion batteries

Photo Credit: iStock

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers BYD and Huaihai Holding Group have announced a partnership to become world leaders in producing sodium-ion batteries for small EVs.

BYD's subsidiary FinDreams signed an agreement with Huaihai in June to build a sodium-ion battery production site in China, according to a press release shared by CnEVPost, which covers China's EV industry. The companies aim to "jointly create the world's largest supplier of sodium battery systems for micro vehicles," the release said.

The partners' bid to lead this sector could be an important development in the broader race to produce sodium-ion batteries. By challenging the dominance of lithium-ion batteries used in most EVs, this promising technology could one day drive down EV costs and improve the environmental impact of battery-making.

BYD (Build Your Dreams) is second only to Tesla in worldwide sales of EVs and is also among the top battery manufacturers, according to Electrek. Huaihai is a leading manufacturer of small EVs ranging from scooters to cars.

According to CnEVPost, the new joint venture represents the first time BYD has moved forward with manufacturing sodium-ion batteries. CnEVPost said there are even unconfirmed reports that BYD eventually plans to use sodium-ion batteries in its wildly affordable Seagull EV, released this year — in China only — with a starting price equal to around $11,000 (with the current exchange rate).

Lithium EV batteries are currently favored in part due to their high energy density — basically, more stored-up power per pound. Yet purified lithium is also expensive and subject to supply and price fluctuations.

Also, although the impacts of extracting lithium are considerably lower than for oil and gas, mining lithium does have environmental costs.

Enter the sodium-ion battery. Sodium is cheaper than lithium and widely available. Sodium batteries don't have the energy density of lithium ones, but they work better in cold temperatures and can likely handle more charge/discharge cycles, per CleanTechnica. Plus, processing sodium for batteries has the potential to be more environmentally friendly, though this is still being developed.

Several companies have begun investing in lithium batteries, including BYD's rival CATL. CATL has announced that its sodium-ion batteries will be used in upcoming releases by carmaker Chery, CnEVPost reported.

While the BYD/Huaihai collaboration is in the early stages and limited to smaller EVs, observers recognize the technology's upside.

"Sodium will be the battery of [the] future," wrote one Electrek commenter.

"This could very well become a game changer," wrote another.

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