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Electric cars in China

China's CATL unveils sodium-ion battery as EV popularity rises

As demand for key ingredients spikes, new method is first for a major car battery maker

CATL, China's top car battery maker, has unveiled a new sodium-ion battery, as demand for key ingredients such as cobalt prompts makers to seek alternatives to the existing main techonologies.   © AP

BEIJING (Reuters) -- China's CATL on Thursday became the first major automotive battery maker to unveil a sodium-ion battery, saying it planned to set up a supply chain for the new technology in 2023.

As electric vehicles become increasingly popular, demand for key battery ingredients, particularly cobalt, has spiked. That has spurred car and battery makers to seek alternatives to the current three main technologies -- nickel-cobalt-aluminium, nickel-cobalt-manganese and lithium iron phosphate batteries.

CATL, China's top car battery maker with a market value of almost $200 billion, also unveiled a battery pack that integrates sodium-ion and lithium-ion batteries.

The energy density of its new sodium-ion batteries is still lower than that of LFP batteries, Huang Qisen, deputy head of CATL's research center told an online briefing. But he added that they perform well in cold weather and fast-charging scenarios.

CATL, which competes with Japan's Panasonic Corp and South Korea's LG Chem, has over 5,000 researchers, its chairman, Zeng Yuqun, told the briefing.

It is also developing other technologies that integrate battery cells directly onto an electric vehicle's frame to extend its driving range.

Automakers that CATL supplies include Tesla Inc, Volkswagen AG and Geely.

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