ARPA-E has recently awarded $3 million to a team of research institutions to develop a new solid-state sodium battery. The team includes Iowa State University, Washington State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Houston, and Solid Power Inc.
The sodium battery is expected to have an energy density 20% greater than that of current lithium-ion batteries, and to be safer and longer-lasting. More importantly, sodium is a far more abundant natural resource than lithium – making mass scalability of battery production an even more realizable path.
Sodium batteries’ primary strength and use would be storage of renewable energy – wind and solar electricity. As Steve Martin, head of the research team, has stated, “nearly all countries have access to large amounts of sodium” – meaning that the international community would have an additional incentive to shift even further from nonrenewable to renewable energy sources.
In short, sodium is relatively abundant; solid-state sodium batteries are thus relatively inexpensive and scalable, and they constitute an efficient method of storing renewable electricity. Renewable electricity generation thus becomes more efficient and more tenable/sustainable, financially and otherwise.
This is not the first instance of sodium battery development. Faradion, based in the UK, recently developed a sodium battery that is comparable to current lithium-ion batteries and about 30% cheaper to produce. Considering that “The high cost of the batteries that power [electric vehicles] is a prime reason” for the higher cost of many electric vehicles, the development of new, superior and simultaneously more cost-effective battery technologies is crucial in accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.
If sodium batteries can be scalably produced, on an international scale (1) renewable energy is set to become even more efficient, cost-effective and generally viable; (2) electric vehicles are set to become more affordable and more quickly adopted; and (3) since electric vehicles are increasingly able to prioritize renewable electricity, renewable energy in general is set to be in much higher demand, and traditional polluting energy is set to be in lower demand. This would, of course, be a good thing.