In an effort to decrease dependence on China, U.S. and European startups are working to develop new battery technology.
- Using sodium and sulfur, startups are looking to develop batteries that are both more cost effective and less dependent on China.
- If successful, these new batteries could lead to mass-produced electric vehicles (EVs) by increasing the flow of batteries available.
- Current EV batteries are made with lithium, cobalt, manganese, and high-grade nickel—all expensive materials.
- Sodium-ion and lithium-sulfur battery cells are significantly cheaper than the currently available lithium-ion cells.
Why it’s news
While the chance for cheaper, more readily available batteries is promising, startups like Germany’s Theion, the U.K.’s Faradion, and American Lyten still have some challenges to overcome.
For example, sodium-ion batteries don’t store as much energy as the current batteries and sulfur battery cells have a shorter lifespan. Currently, these downsides outweigh the benefits.
But more global startups are taking on the challenge to see who can solve the battery problem. Governments are getting involved through grants and other funding as these startups raise millions of dollars through various investments.
China controls the EV manufacturing market—it owns 75% of the world’s cobalt refining and 59% of global lithium processing.
The race to secure an alternative battery producer isn’t just a matter of competition. It’s a matter of national security. If EVs become more common, countries like the U.S. could become too dependent on Chinese batteries.
China is also looking to develop alternative batteries.
Backing up a bit
A California company is working to develop a battery that is smaller than standard EV batteries and lasts longer.
Sila has contracts with nearly every major automaker to conduct research for new EV batteries that are smaller and more powerful.
Rather than using graphite like most batteries, Sila batteries use silicon, which is capable of storing more lithium—a vital component that gives the battery power.
The company aims to develop more effective batteries while also lowering the overall cost of the vehicle.