Leading battery technology company, Faradion, may have developed a better alternative to lithium-ion batteries. The British company has been working on a revolutionary sodium ion battery in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, a firm that supplies batteries for Formula E electric race cars.
Faradion has developed an Electric Bike powered by a sodium-ion battery to research the viability of this new form of battery. This type of battery utilizes the same ion insertion and removal process as standard lithium-ion batteries, however promises to be a cheaper alternative with easier base materials required in the manufacturing process.
The company stated that the potential savings that sodium-ion batteries could offer would be approximately 30% of the cost per kWh. There are also other considerable advantages in using sodium batteries, one of which is the ability to transport them even if they are already completely discharged, making them a much safer alternative to the lithium models.
Lithium vs Salt – Who Comes Out On Top?
With molecules sourced from ordinary salt, even attractive features like a life cycle similar to lithium batteries does not mean they don’t face challenges. On average, they substantially bigger than lithium batteries, making the replacement and maintenance process more difficult.
There are also considerable structural changes that happen during Na+ insertion and de-insertion. Therefore, the stability of cycling and battery capacity is lower.
The designers of the battery pack were forced to make it bigger so that they can keep costs down and avoid manufacturing complexities. However, Williams Advanced Engineering promises a more sophisticated commercial version with the same size and capacity as the lithium-ion battery.
A Sodium Powered Electric Bike
The battery pack of the Electric Bike is 418 Wh and 250 Wh, all of which are consumed during operation. Every module has 12 cells with the energy produced from the sodium-ion batteries is more than 140 Wh per kilogram.
James Frances, communications manager of Williams Advanced Engineering, stated that the electric bike did well in the trials and encountering few difficulties. The demonstration, however, was only held in a parking lot and more extensive tests are yet to be conducted, like distance range.
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“While lithium-ion is still the dominant choice of chemistry, sodium-ion is a fascinating alternative that could have real benefits in terms of cost and availability,” said Paul McNamara, Williams’s technical director.
He also stated that they have worked closely with Oxford University and Faradion to look into the potential of sodium-ion and proved that the concept has a viable real world application.
When finally optimized, the sodium-ion batteries will be similar to the sizes of lithium-ion battery packs currently on the market.
Therefore, there is a lot of potential to exploit the technology of sodium-ion batteries, as it can be used in a broad range of electric and hybrid cars, as well as energy storage purposes. Their cost also makes them an attractive alternative for many customers in the market.