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Chinese Carmakers Launch Sodium-Ion Battery-Powered EVs

Two Chinese state-owned carmakers have launched electric vehicles (EVs) powered by sodium-ion batteries, considered an alternative to the conventional  lithium-ion batteries used in most EVs, Caixin Global reports. 

Yiwei, a new EV subsidiary of JAC Group and backed by Volkswagen, debuted the first sodium-ion battery-powered electric car on Wednesday. 

Back in 2021, Volkswagen invested 1 billion euros in JAC Group for a 50% stake with the giant German automaker before full control of management of the EV joint venture with a 75% stake. 

The newly-launched JAC Yiwei EV features sodium-ion cylindrical cells from HiNa Battery and will use a honey-comb battery structure by JAC's UE module tech. JAC's UE is similar to BYD's popular Blade battery, which is used in FordToyota and Kia EVs, and is also comparable to CATL's CTP (cell-to-pack) technology. 

The sodium-ion-battery features 25 kWh of capacity and 120 Wh/kg of energy density. 

According to the manufacturer, the electric hatchback could recharge from 10% to 80% in 20 minutes with 3C to 4C charging. In comparison,  Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) current Model 3 battery comes with an energy density of about 260 Wh/kg;  Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive has a 57.5 kWh usable battery capacity, topping out at 75 kWh for both the Model 3 Long Range and Model 3 Performance.

Deliveries of the sodium battery-powered EV are expected to kick off next month.

One of the biggest advantages of sodium-Ion batteries is that they rely on abundant and cheap raw materials. Although Li-ion batteries now average $151/kWh, about 80% cheaper compared to a decade ago, analysts contend that the cost must fall further to below $100/kWh for EVs to achieve cost parity with fossil fuel vehicles. 

This is a primary driver for the increasing competitiveness of Chinese EVs, which rely on LFP (lithium-ion phosphate) batteries costing a third less than similar NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt) batteries. 

Cost factors have poised China's BYD to overtake Tesla as the world's biggest EV manufacturer in 2024, according to InsideEVs.

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Tom Kool

Tom majored in International Business at Amsterdam’s Higher School of Economics, he is Oilprice.com's Head of Operations More