BATTERIESNew Battery Tech from Sweden Offers Alternative to Critical Materials from China

Published 23 November 2023

New sodium-ion battery is safer and more cost-effective and sustainable than conventional nickel, manganese, and cobalt (NMC) or iron phosphate (LFP) chemistries, and is produced with minerals such as iron and sodium that are abundant on global markets.

Northvolt announced a state-of-the-art sodium-ion battery, developed for the expansion of cost-efficient and sustainable energy storage systems worldwide. The cell has been validated for a best-in-class energy density of over 160 watt-hours per kilogram at the company’s R&D and industrialization campus, Northvolt Labs, in Västerås, Sweden.

Northvolt’s validated cell is more safe, cost-effective, and sustainable than conventional nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC) or iron phosphate (LFP) chemistries and is produced with minerals such as iron and sodium that are abundant on global markets. It is based on a hard carbon anode and a Prussian White-based cathode, and is free from lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite. Leveraging a breakthrough in battery design and manufacturing, Northvolt plans to be the first to industrialize Prussian White-based batteries and bring them to commercial markets.

Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder of Northvolt, comments: “The world has put high hopes on sodium-ion, and I’m very pleased to say that we’ve developed a technology that will enable its widespread deployment to accelerate the energy transition. It’s an important milestone for Northvolt’s market proposition, but battery technology like this is also crucial to reach global sustainability goals, by making electrification more cost-efficient, sustainable and accessible worldwide.”

The sodium-ion technology, which has been developed together with research partner Altris, is intended to provide the foundation for Northvolt’s next-generation energy storage solutions. The low cost and safety at high temperatures make the technology especially attractive for energy storage solutions in upcoming markets including India, the Middle East and Africa.

Additionally, the technology can be produced with locally sourced materials, providing a unique pathway for developing new regional battery manufacturing capacity entirely independent of traditional battery value chains.

“Using sodium-ion technology is not new but we think this is the first product ever completely free from critical raw materials. It is a fundamental breakthrough,” Patrik Andreasson, Northvolt’s vice-president of strategy and sustainability, told the Guardian. “This provides an option that is not dependent on certain parts of the world, including China.”

Storing electricity in batteries on an industrial scale is seen as crucial to decarbonising national electricity grids. Battery projects store energy from wind and solar panels which can be used when the wind drops or sun is not shining. Northvolt’s first generation of sodium-ion cell is designed primarily for energy storage, with subsequent generations delivering higher energy density opening opportunities to enable cost-efficient electric mobility solutions. It represents an ideal complement to Northvolt’s product portfolio consisting of premium lithium-ion battery cells tailored for automotive customers, and energy-dense lithium-metal battery technology under development for aviation and high-performance vehicles at Cuberg, a Northvolt company based in San Leandro, USA.

Andreasson said that the energy density of the new battery was lower than most lithium equivalents but it would aim to build that up in the new product, while keeping costs low.

Northvolt said the battery, which is based on a high-sodium Prussian white cathode and hard carbon anode, is safer than alternatives at high temperatures. As a result, the company is targeting markets such as the Middle East, India and Africa.

Peter Carlsson concludes: “Our sodium-ion technology delivers the performance required to enable energy storage with longer duration than alternative battery chemistries, at a lower cost, thereby opening new pathways to deploying renewable power generation. The potential of sodium-ion in this market alone will make a tremendous impact in the drive towards global electrification.”