International - China’s JAC Group, which markets the T6, T8 and X200 bakkies in South Africa, has unveiled the world’s first electric car powered by a sodium-ion battery
But what’s the big deal here? According to the carmaker, this technology could be a game-changer for the EV industry as sodium-ion batteries are cheaper than the lithium-ion units that are commonly used, and potentially more sustainable as they rely on a far more abundant resource.
While the scarcity and cost of lithium have been a monumental challenge to the industry, sodium-ion batteries use cheaper raw materials and have been touted as a potential alternative that could help reduce EV production costs by 10%.
There are disadvantages, however, the biggest hurdle being that they have a lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries, meaning the equivalent size battery will offer a lower range between charges.
However, despite this JAC claims that its new Hua Xianzi compact hatchback, which is fitted with a 25 kWh battery supplied by HiNa Battery Technologies, can cover as many as 250km on a single charge, but perhaps this is also due to the vehicle’s diminutive size. The new vehicle is the result of a joint venture with Volkswagen.
Making sodium-ion batteries feasible in larger vehicles could still prove a challenge, however. Battery research pioneer Jason Zhang recently told Emerging Tech Brew that it could still take a few more years for the technology to mature.
But either way, sodium-ion batteries do carry other advantages besides cost, including the fact that they’re less prone to overheating and catching fire, and they’re also said to offer better low-temperature performance, charging speed and a longer life span, according to JAC.
"The future of electric vehicles looks promising with the introduction of more affordable and sustainable battery technology," says JAC SA head Karl-Heinz Göbel. "With the development of new battery technology, EV pricing will become more competitive, giving more car buyers access to new-energy vehicles."
Although the company has yet to reveal any plans for offering this vehicle in South Africa, the company is clearly enthusiastic about the prospect of offering motorists a more attainable EV option.