Sodium battery VS lithium battery, can it be replaced?

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Since last year, listed companies have continued to enter projects related to sodium batteries, and the industrialization process of sodium-ion batteries has also achieved certain breakthroughs. Does this indicate that sodium batteries have begun to “relay” lithium batteries, or even replace lithium batteries? In fact, the issue of the competition between sodium and lithium has been discussed.
Controversy about sodium and lithium
In fact, as early as the late 1970s, researchers had already conducted research on sodium-ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries, but the excellent performance of lithium-ion batteries caused scientists to give up research on sodium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries have also made great progress in the past 50 years, and have become the main force in the field of power and energy storage by virtue of their capacity density advantages. In contrast, research on sodium batteries has been relatively stagnant. After 2010, there was a turning point in the research of sodium-ion batteries, and breakthroughs were continuously made in electrode materials, electrolyte materials, characterization analysis, exploration of sodium storage mechanism, and battery technology.
With the accelerated pace of global energy transformation, the demand for lithium batteries has doubled, but the main raw materials of lithium-ion batteries are in short supply, leading to higher battery prices, which in turn lead to a surge in the production costs of new energy vehicles and energy storage.
At this time, as the same main group element in the periodic table of elements, sodium batteries began to receive more attention. The chemical properties of sodium and lithium are similar. Although it is not as high as lithium ion in terms of high potential and specific capacity, it is superior to natural reserves and sufficient raw materials. It is regarded by the market as one of the best alternatives for lithium batteries.

Advantages and disadvantages of sodium batteries
Advantages of sodium batteries

The reserves of sodium resources are very rich: the amount of sodium resources on the earth is more than 400 times that of lithium, and the distribution of sodium resources in the world is relatively uniform, while more than 80% of lithium resources are concentrated in the Americas and Australia. Therefore, in the scenario of large-scale application, sodium batteries have no obvious resource constraints.
Lower cost: In theory, sodium-ion batteries have significant cost advantages in terms of materials. For example, the cost of the cathode material with the largest proportion, because the price of sodium carbonate is much lower than that of lithium carbonate, and the cathode materials of sodium ion batteries usually use bulk metal materials such as copper and iron, so the cost of cathode materials is much lower than that of lithium batteries.
Higher safety: Because the internal resistance of sodium-ion batteries is higher than that of lithium batteries, it has less instantaneous heat generation and lower temperature rise in the case of short circuit, and the thermal runaway temperature is higher than that of lithium batteries, which has higher safety . And the sodium battery can work normally in the temperature range of -40°C to 80°C, the capacity retention rate is close to 90% in the environment of -20°C, and the high and low temperature performance is better than other batteries
Disadvantages of sodium batteries
Low energy density: Compared with lithium-ion batteries, sodium-ion batteries still have a large gap in energy density. The energy density of the currently published mainstream sodium batteries is generally 100-150Wh/kg, while lithium iron phosphate batteries can reach 150-200Wh/kg, and ternary lithium batteries can reach 200-250Wh/kg.
Shorter cycles: sodium batteries are generally between 1000-4000 times. In contrast, the cycle life of lithium iron phosphate batteries is between 3000-10000 times.
The two are complements, not substitutes.
It can be seen by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of sodium and lithium. The low energy density of sodium-ion batteries has become the main shortcoming of power batteries. The difference in energy density also determines that it is difficult to form a subversive substitution in the strict sense between sodium-ion batteries and lithium-ion batteries.
However, in areas where energy density is relatively low, it may be a good supplement to lithium battery technology, such as in communication base stations, low-speed electric vehicles, electric bicycles, electric energy storage, solar street lights and other application scenarios.
In addition to the characteristics of the battery itself, the market’s expectations for sodium batteries largely depend on its theoretical cost advantage. In comparison with lithium batteries, due to the high price of lithium carbonate, the key raw material of lithium batteries, the cost advantage of sodium batteries is magnified, and once the price of lithium carbonate enters a downward channel, the price of lithium batteries will also drop rapidly, virtually erasing the advantages of sodium batteries.
Moreover, compared with the relatively mature lithium battery industry, the sodium battery industry is far from being mass-produced on a large scale, and there is currently a bottleneck of an unsound industrial chain, resulting in the current price being higher than that of lithium iron phosphate.
People in the industry said: “Whether it is energy storage or other fields, it is still difficult for sodium-ion batteries to completely replace lithium batteries at this stage, because the application fields between the two are complementary. At present, the market positions sodium-ion batteries as potential substitutes for lithium-ion batteries, it is a supplement to lithium batteries, not a substitute.”