Ningde times “bright sodium”, for trillions of market value or energy storage?

“Our sodium ion battery is mature.” Really?

The competition of lithium battery is in full swing, and everyone is staring at the leading battery boss Ningde Times. This time, Ningde Times turned around and threw a news “bomb”. Then the stock market also blew up, Ningde Time’s market value broke trillion.

This “bomb” was sounded on May 21. On that day of Ningde Times 2020 annual shareholders meeting, the company’s chairman Zeng Yuqun revealed that Ningde Times will release sodium-ion batteries in about July 2021, “our sodium-ion batteries have matured.” Of course, because the entire supply chain is not up yet, Zeng Yuqun also said that the cost of sodium-ion batteries is more expensive than lithium batteries.

Here insert a very long story, in 2015, Japan’s National Institute of Industrial Technology (AIST) “bull” Professor Zhou Haoshen went to Xiamen University to give a lecture, mentioned the sodium-ion battery, he said at the time: “before the lithium reserves run out, sodium-ion batteries have no chance. This is the conclusion from the performance, cost-effective comprehensive consideration.”

There is no opportunity, Ningde Times must have considered a million times. The question is, why would Ningde Time “bright sodium”? Is the future trillion market size in the field of energy storage to place heavy bets? At least, we can see from the stock market reaction, capital by this news, this wave at least let the leeks itch again.

Aiming at the competitors of passenger cars can wash up?

Sodium-ion batteries began in the 1970s in tandem with lithium-ion batteries, but after the 1990s lithium batteries have occupied an absolute share of the market by virtue of the advantages in all aspects. It was only in the last decade that sodium-ion battery technology began to see explosive growth.

Ningde times "bright sodium", for trillions of market value or energy storage?

Although the reserves of lithium ore are limited in terms of raw materials. However, the current industry consensus is that the main potential field of application of sodium ion battery is in the field of energy storage, sodium ion battery representative enterprise Zhongke Haina, also just said that sodium ion battery can be applied to low-speed electric transportation, home energy storage, grid energy storage and other scenarios in the future.

Therefore, for the automotive industry, mainly in the field of passenger cars, Ningde Time “bright sodium” is still a bit abrupt. In the process of breaking through the trillion yuan market value, Ningde Times has no obvious good news except this one. However, from the action of Ningde Times in the field of energy storage in the past two years, basically understandable.

From the current information, Ningde Time’s upcoming sodium ion battery release in July, in addition to raw material considerations, the technology path is a very important factor. Through a news, it is possible to know how much attention Zeng Yuqun and the team associated with it to develop sodium ion battery technology, etc., pay to this aspect.

On January 17 this year, at the “7th China Electric Vehicle 100 Forum”, Chen Liquan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, delivered a keynote speech highlighting the sodium ion battery developed by Hu Yongsheng’s team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Hu Yongsheng’s team has spent ten years developing sodium ion batteries, which are now in mass production at CSCH. This sodium ion battery, the cathode material used is Cu (copper) based sodium ion layer oxide, the negative material is high temperature cracking anthracite (the negative cost is very low, the carbon production rate is up to 90%, with high reversible specific capacity), after the initial industrialization, has good high and low temperature performance, multiplier performance, cycle performance.

Chen Lizhuan academician forum is to say: “lithium-ion batteries are now doing all over the world, if the world’s cars are driven by lithium-ion batteries, the world’s electricity is stored in lithium-ion batteries, simply not enough. Therefore, we must consider new batteries, and sodium-ion batteries are the first choice.”

If we talk about the relationship, academician Chen Lizhuan is the doctoral supervisor of Ningde Times chairman Zeng Yuqun, and, both of their teams have invested heavily in the track of sodium-ion batteries. This also shows that they have actually been aware of the potential impact of the shortage of raw materials for lithium batteries for a long time.

Moreover, in addition to the field of electric vehicles, large-scale energy storage devices (mainly energy storage power plants), although lithium-ion batteries are currently the “number one”, due to the judgment that “lithium-ion batteries cannot support two huge markets of electric vehicles and large-scale energy storage at the same time”. But because of this judgment that “lithium-ion batteries cannot support two huge markets: electric vehicles and large-scale energy storage”, academician Chen Liquan and researcher Hu Yongsheng have high hopes on sodium-ion batteries. Ningde Times must also be very clear about this situation.

According to China’s planning, the installed capacity of energy storage should reach 30GW in 2025, the current scale of domestic electrochemical energy storage is only 3.28GW, the potential is quite large, but the problem of raw material shortage is also becoming increasingly prominent.

After all, the source and discourse of lithium battery technology is not in China, and the Nobel Prize winners are scientists from Japan and the United States. As for sodium ion batteries, we can undoubtedly become the rule maker if we can win. Academician Chen Liquan has also said that China’s sodium ion battery is in the leading position in the international arena in terms of basic research, technology level and industrialization speed, and has a first-mover advantage.

So, who can pull out the top of the sodium ion battery mass production? In addition to the lithium-ion battery industry chain, a new industry chain will be born soon, and will this become the high ground that the major battery companies will strive to capture? However, as some analysts pointed out, sodium ion batteries are still in the early stages of industrialization, and there is no relatively clear and clear route, and all aspects of application are subject to further testing.

At this time, Zeng Yuqun arm a call, of course, is the hope that the response of the group, the industry chain can do up. In addition, the domestic BYD, PAI Energy Technology (SH: 688063) (new rivals in the field of energy storage) and so on, in the battery research and development bite very tight, this pressure of being concerned is needed like the National Day parade to show “East Wind Express” to release. Therefore, although Ningde Time’s move has the meaning of “high lift”, but from the previous information, for the layout of sodium ion battery, the passenger car field is not too affected.

Why sodium ion battery?

Of course, the reason why sodium ion batteries recently began to receive attention, is the cost and raw material game behind lithium batteries, raw materials and the wave of commodity price increases so that the cost problem is facing an outbreak. So many electric vehicles, and the demand for energy storage, so that has become a number of countries strategic resources of lithium resources, counting not enough.

Ningde times "bright sodium", for trillions of market value or energy storage?

In terms of abundance, lithium accounts for about 0.0065% of the reserves in the earth’s crust, while sodium accounts for 2.75%. According to the relevant statistics, the current global proven reserves of lithium resources, a total of about 62 million tons. Of this, the three South American countries Argentina (23.87%), Bolivia (14.52%) and Chile (13.71%) account for more than half. (The USGS reported about 53 million tons in 2018, of which Argentina accounted for 18.5%, Bolivia 17.0%, Chile 15.8%, China 13.2%, the United States 12.8%, and Australia 9.4%).

Although very early Ningde Times, Tianqi Lithium, Ganfeng Lithium and other companies, began to layout lithium resources in South America, Oceania, but limited by the business environment, and the rising demand for lithium resources, to solve the problem of high foreign dependence of lithium resources is urgent. A report by Guotai Junan Securities pointed out that 70% of China’s lithium resources need to be imported.

Although our domestic proven lithium resource reserves ranked fourth, but more than 85% is distributed in the western high-altitude mountains and salt lake areas, mainly ore-type and brine-type two resources, lithium resources, low grade, separation difficulties, high mining costs, high problems, in general, the high degree of import dependence.

So, although lithium resources can still “eat” a few years, but after eating? As soon as possible to find alternative resources for lithium is actually the core. And the most suitable, there is nothing better than the same family of lithium sodium. However, as mentioned earlier, in the passenger car segment, sodium ion batteries are the next stage of technology, just like solid-state batteries, and distant water is not enough to quench the thirst.

Let’s briefly analyze the structure and process of sodium ion battery.

1, cathode material: this is the biggest difference from the lithium-ion battery. The current sodium ion battery cathode materials are mainly sodium transition metal oxide, sodium transition metal phosphate, sodium transition metal sulfate, sodium transition metal Prussian blue compounds and other major categories.

2, negative electrode materials: soft carbon, hard carbon, transition metal oxides, etc. The easiest to achieve industrialization and commercialization, is still the carbon material.

3, electrolyte: sodium salt + solvent, except for sodium salt, solvent and lithium-ion batteries do not differ much. However, there is a need to find more suitable salt, solvent and additives to meet the needs of high voltage, long cycle, high multiplier, high and low temperature resistance, flame retardant, etc.

4, diaphragm: basically the same as lithium-ion batteries.

5, shape package: cylindrical, soft package, square, and lithium-ion batteries are basically the same.

6, preparation process: basically the same as lithium-ion batteries.

The defect of sodium ion battery is that the energy density is low, the upper limit of energy density is not more than 200Wh/kg. 300Wh/kg for the vehicle battery requirements, it is not enough. At present, sodium ion batteries are only 150Wh/kg. sodium ion batteries also have a problem, although the production line of lithium batteries can be used seamlessly, but the current supply chain is insufficient to lead to high production costs, commercialization is difficult.

According to industry calculations, if the lithium-ion battery and sodium-ion battery raw material cost comparison, sodium-ion battery raw material cost of about 0.25 yuan / Wh, while lithium iron phosphate raw material cost of more than 0.35 yuan / Wh. But this is only the cost of raw materials, as Zeng Yuqun said, sodium-ion battery prices are difficult to lower than lithium batteries in the short term. In addition, the anode material of sodium batteries hard carbon is still not scaled up, so the price does not have an advantage at this stage.

The current state of the industry is still early

From the industry’s actual point of view, the current ability to achieve mass production of sodium ion batteries is relying on the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics of China Science and Technology Haina, which can produce 300,000 cells per year. The sodium ion battery energy density of Zhongke Haina can achieve 150Wh/kg and cycle life 4500 times. But 300,000 units are insignificant compared to the huge industry applications.

As for the raw material, the absolute leading company of sodium metal in the world is Zhongkehai Chemical. Technology, using DuPont technology, sodium metal capacity of 65,000 tons, accounting for 40.5% of global production capacity, compared to the automotive industry and energy storage needs, even if the global annual production capacity of 200,000 tons is far from enough, so, as Zeng Yuqun said earlier, the supply chain is still far from lithium batteries.

Ningde times "bright sodium", for trillions of market value or energy storage?

At present, in the sodium battery industry, in addition to China, several European and American companies have come up with finished products, and their strength is relatively strong. In 2015, Faradion of the UK, in cooperation with Williams Advanced Engineering and Oxford University, demonstrated the world’s first sodium battery-powered electric bicycle, which is still a long way from the actual application of lithium batteries. Currently, Faradion is developing batteries for commercial vehicles.

As for France’s Timat, according to industry expert Zhu Yulong, their long-term goal is mainly to develop low-voltage systems for hybrid vehicles. This also does not become mainstream. From the current information, Timat is going a little slower than Faradion, and Timat is doing 18650 sodium ion batteries, which are then integrated into 48V battery packs for high-power light-hybrid architectures.

Then there is the American startup, Bubbler Energy (Natron Energy), based in California, which has developed a battery that uses Prussian blue simulated electrodes and a sodium ion electrolyte. The company is led by ABB Technology Ventures, NanoDimension Capital and Volta Energy Technologies. As of now, the product is still in the low-volume commercial production stage.

From the current practical point of view, it is unlikely that sodium ion batteries are going to enter the electric vehicle supply chain, and there is still a long way to go, and now it can only be described as a kind of technology reserve. Just like the wind of solid-state batteries, it is said that “the wind is rising and the clouds are flying”, but in fact it is still “the first step of the long march”.

However, let’s take a look at the energy storage products released by Ningde Time at the not-so-impressive 10th Energy Storage Exhibition held in Beijing before the Shanghai Auto Show, and we can see some clues. This time, Ningde Times released a full-scene solution for energy storage on the power generation side, transmission and distribution side and user side, as well as products such as outdoor liquid-cooled electric cabinet, optical storage and charging check intelligent charging station, UPS lithium battery cabinet, base station backup and home energy storage system.

In fact, according to the 2020 performance report disclosed by Ningde Times, Ningde Times achieved an annual revenue of 50.319 billion yuan, an increase of 9.90% year-on-year. Among them, energy storage system revenue of 1.943 billion yuan, a year-on-year jump of 218.56%. And relative to the bright performance of the energy storage business, its main power battery system revenue accounted for a slight downward trend. So, Ningde Time “bright sodium” at this time, is holding back what new “big move”? Or want to attack in the field of energy storage? And we wait for the curtain to open in July.


1, “Sodium ion battery: from basic research to engineering exploration”, Energy Storage Science and Technology, September 2020 issue

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