Recently, Natron, a facility in Holland, MI, announced an expansion in the production capacity of sodium-ion batteries, with Chevron among their top investors. Colin Wessells, the founder, and co-CEO of Natron Energy, expressed, “The electrification of our economy is dependent on the development and production of new, innovative energy storage solutions. We at Natron are proud to deliver such a battery without the use of conflict minerals or materials with questionable environmental impacts.”

The company has attracted investments from strategic partners, including Chevron. Why would Chevron, known for refining gasoline, diesel, and marine fuels, invest in potential EV technology? What makes sodium-ion batteries appealing to them?

Understanding Sodium-ion Batteries:

According to CNBC, “In a sodium-ion battery, lithium ions are replaced with sodium ions in the battery’s cathode, and lithium salts swapped for sodium salts in the electrolyte….” 

Image taken from the article Daniel, C.; Besenhard, J.O. Handbook of Battery Materials; John Wiley & Sons: Weinheim, Germany, 2012

Integration of Sodium-ion Batteries in the Evolving Battery Market:

While sodium-ion batteries may not match the range of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, they offer unique advantages. For instance, the materials in sodium-ion batteries are often more cost-effective than those in lithium batteries. They offer energy-efficient power, fast charging, stability in extreme temperatures, and safety against overheating or thermal runaway.

 Natron’s high-performance sodium-ion batteries surpass lithium-ion batteries in power density and charging speed, eliminate the need for lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel, and are non-flammable. However, a downside is their lower energy density, resulting in bulkier and heavier batteries.

Chevron’s Interest:

Natron Energy, headquartered in Silicon Valley, is advancing sodium-ion battery technology commercially. United Airlines and Chevron are among their clients, with Chevron employing Natron’s batteries in EV charging stations. Colin Wessells, CEO and co-founder of Natron, envisions a scenario where multiple cars can charge simultaneously at a station without overloading the electric grid. To address this challenge, many station operators are considering installing large stationary batteries to support the power demand for charging vehicles.

Wessells stated, “Imagine pulling into the station. There are a whole bunch of chargers there and all the cars plug in at the same time. Now the power load on the electric grid is enormous. It can be really hard for the grid to support all those vehicle chargers simultaneously. And so, a lot of station operators are actually moving to a model where they would put big stationary batteries in the station to provide those pulses of power to charge the vehicles.”

Sources:

Petrova, M. (2023, May 10). Here’s why sodium-ion batteries are shaping up to be a big technology breakthrough. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/10/sodium-ion-batteries-shaping-up-to-be-big-technology-breakthrough.html

Natron Energy begins commercial-scale production of sodium-ion batteries. (2024, May 15). The Buzz EV News. https://www.thebuzzevnews.com/natron-energy-sodium-ion-batteries/?utm_source=omeda&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=Are+sodium-ion+EV+batteries+the+next+big+thing%3F&oly_enc_id=3981H4204256E0X

Manthey, E. (2024, February 13). Can sodium-ion batteries replace lithium-ion ones? ING Think. https://think.ing.com/articles/can-sodium-ion-batteries-replace-lithium-ion-batteries/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20major%20disadvantages,means%20bulkier%20and%20heavier%20batteries.

Natron Energy Achieves First-Ever Commercial-Scale Production of Sodium-Ion Batteries in the U.S. (n.d.). Business Wire. Retrieved May 23, 2024, from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20240428240613/en/Natron-Energy-Achieves-First-Ever-Commercial-Scale-Production-of-Sodium-Ion-Batteries-in-the-U.S.

Elisa. (2023, August 1). Sodium batteries: The technology of the future? Flash Battery. https://www.flashbattery.tech/en/sodium-batteries/


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