August 9, 2015


The innovators: cheaper batteries could help electric cars hit the mainstream : Sheffield-based Faradion has developed a sodium-ion battery that looks and performs in the same way as a regular lithium-ion battery but is 30% cheaper (Shane Hickey, 9 August 2015, The Guardian)

Sheffield-based Faradion believes it has found a solution through a new type of battery technology, the development of which has been spearheaded in the UK.

"For an electric car, the cost of a battery is crudely the same as the cost of the rest. That is quite the wrong proportion for it to take off. So people are desperate to find ways to supply cheaper batteries," chairman Chris Wright said.

In 2010, Wright and some colleagues pondered why large batteries used for electric cars and for energy storage from solar panels in the home were so expensive. The problem lay in the materials used to make them - specifically, those that contain lithium, of which there is a scarcity that drives up price. Wright said "we would be on to a winner" if his team could find a material which contained a comparable but less expensive material to make the equivalent of lithium-ion batteries like those used in mobile phones.

The answer, they thought, was by using sodium which has a similar chemistry to lithium. The base materials needed to produce a sodium-ion battery are significantly easier to source than those for lithium-ion batteries.

The market for systems which use large-scale batteries is expected to blossom in coming years as demand grows for home storage units for the energy generated from solar panels as well as in electric cars. This in turn has led to the pursuit within the industry of ever cheaper alternatives in battery technology.

"We set out to make sodium materials that worked in a simple electrochemical [battery] cell that behaved as well as if not better than some of the lithium systems. We were able to produce material which outperformed lithium-ion phosphate, which has until recently been the workhorse in automotive batteries."

Posted by at August 9, 2015 7:29 AM

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