New Delhi: Sentient Labs, a new research and technology company in Pune led by veteran technocrat Ravi Pandit, is working on a number of “exciting innovative technology solutions” for the industry. One of the technologies the company has been working on is the sodium-ion battery to make its cost a “non-issue” in an electric vehicle, Pandit said at ETAutos Target Net Zero, a series of discussions about carbon neutrality .
“That is our goal. The cost would be very attractive, ”he said. Technology development work is believed to be at an advanced stage, with formal announcement likely in a few months.
Sodium-ion technology is more cost-effective than current lithium-ion electric battery technology. “The performance of a LFP (lithium ferrophosphate) battery is comparable to the cost of a lead-acid battery,” said Bala Pachyappa, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Coimbatore-based battery startup Sodium Energy. The cost of a sodium-ion battery could be about half that of a lithium-ion battery, he added. Depending on the vehicle segment, the cost share of a battery in an electric vehicle is 40 to 60% today.
We do not want a situation where some countries that control the supply of oil and gas are replaced by some others that control the supply of lithium.Ravi Pandit
Sodium Energy’s plans were delayed due to a number of operational hurdles. However, Pachyappa, a former CTO of Ampere Vehicles, said, “The technology is ready and commercial production can begin shortly.”
One of the main advantages of sodium ion battery technology is that it can be completely localized. Aside from the technical comparisons, the possibility of electric vehicles powered by fully localized batteries is a huge draw.
“Lithium is of course the first choice for everyone. However, it has certain limitations, mostly related to availability. We don’t want a situation where some countries that control the supply of oil and gas are replaced by some others that control the supply of lithium, ”said Pandit
On the technical front, sodium-ion chemistry enables the battery to be charged “faster”, “almost 100% in 20 minutes and still has a long service life”. Such advantages could potentially make the sodium ion battery very competitive. “I think more and more companies will be working in this area,” he added.
Pachyappa said the sodium-ion battery technology is also safer. “It won’t burn. Depending on the type of adhesives used, it could be made smoke free in the event of an incident, ”he added.
The early mover advantage of lithium-ion technology and the dynamic and constantly evolving EV industry with diverse ideas could be some of the reasons why sodium-ion technology is less popular, despite its inherent advantages. The closure of some sodium-ion battery companies due to financial challenges could also have had a negative impact on the technology’s outlook. At least one of them was also endorsed by Bill Gates.
However, the announcement by the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), to build sodium-ion batteries, has given the technology’s prospects a big boost, Pachyappa said.
This could possibly also help the years of development work by technopreneurs such as Pandit, Pachyappa and their colleagues who rely on sodium-ion battery technology to find results.
With the inherent advantage of battery chemistry, independence from imported raw materials, and the promises made by the developers of sodium ion technology, there could be some interesting changes in the battery compartment of electric vehicles in the years to come; and maybe also in the prospects for the EV industry.