Tesla Enters Cathode Business, Ambani Bets On Sodium & Here Is What It Means For The Future Of Batteries

EV Ultimo Team


Tesla Enters Cathode Business, Ambani Bets On Sodium & Here Is What It Means For The Future Of Batteries

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance New Energy Solar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries, has acquired sodium-ion battery technology company Faradion Limited for 100 million pounds. It’s also an energy corporation that focuses predominantly on fossil fuels. From smartphones to Tesla Inc. cars, lithium-ion batteries are needed everywhere but Asia’s richest man went to England for the good old sodium. The fact that its solar business has purchased Faradion indicates that it’s driving towards battery development.

Faradion, the press release noted, has been one of the first to champion sodium-ion battery technology and has an extensive portfolio that covers many aspects of sodium-ion technology, providing some advantages over lithium-ion and lead-acid. The full list of advantages are:

No dependence or use of cobalt, lithium, copper, or graphite.

Patented zero-volt safe transport and storage.

Low cost with the total cost of ownership compared with lead-acid batteries with the potential for more cost reductions.

Uses existing lithium-ion manufacturing infrastructure which makes it scalable. Also, the company noted that it’s already been proven with several of its commercial manufacturing partners.

Its energy density is also on par with lithium-ion phosphate and has a wider operating temperature range of -30℃ to +60℃.

It also has fast charge and discharges capabilities.

"Becoming part of the Reliance group validates the incredible work our team has done in advancing sodium-ion technology. Together with Reliance, Faradion can bring British innovation to India and globally, as the world increasingly looks beyond lithium. We look forward to being part of India’s Net Zero mission,” Dr. Chris Wright, chairman, and co-founder of Faradion, touched upon how the new acquisition positively impacts Faradion. Reliance New Energy would also invest 25 million pounds as growth capital to accelerate the commercial rollout.

Meanwhile, the Tesla CEO has revealed a major transition to the older battery chemistry- a necessity, because batteries are now in such high demand that the industry is steered for a materials supply bluff composed largely of nickel and cobalt. Tesla’s partner in this endeavor is CATL, the giant battery maker in China, where the technology was cultivated over the years and quietly advanced. Like most of the major cathode chemistries still in use today, the battery was developed in the US or European lab, but its future is squarely in China, which today manufactures 90 percent of LFP battery cells, according to Benchmark Minerals. 

Automakers are imagining many scenarios in the future similar to the existing microchip supply crisis, which is forcing them to make innovative choices. “The last thing I want to be doing is to negotiate with the Asian nations to ensure supply,” Robert Schilp, Ford’s director of purchasing for electric vehicles, warned at a conference last month. “We need to get it here.” A favored choice for US automakers encountering materials limitations is the high-nickel, low-cobalt cathodes as they permit automakers to load more range into vehicle batteries than switching to LFP would. 

Late 2021, Redwood Materials, a corporation best known for recycling battery materials, disclosed that it will enter the cathode-making business with plans to build a US factory that will deliver enough cathodes for 5 million electric vehicles by 2030. “When it comes to energy density, there's no better metal than nickel,” says Alan Nelson, Redwood’s senior vice president for battery materials. For Redwood, which plans to manufacture those types of cathodes, the design makes particular sense, he says, because the company’s approach of using recycled materials means it will not need to rely on any outside sources of cobalt- an enviable position in the industry. The company will, however, need to find raw sources of nickel, mostly likely from mines abroad."

A huge advantage China has in building up battery manufacturing is that it also leads the US and Europe in demand for electric vehicles, says Hans Eric Melin, founder of Circular Energy Storage, a battery consultancy. “Where is everything happening? Where are the resources? Where are the leaders?” Melin asks. As TESLA has been a pioneer in the electric vehicles space, this move will make it easier for innovative battery makers to try out and scale up new formulations. Ambani's endeavor for sodium also comes after CATL's announcement that they would make a major push into producing sodium-ion batteries for cars, it does truly mean just ONE thing- no automaker is going to exclusively rely on lithium-ion batteries in the future. We are heading towards new tech age in battery options for the forthcoming electric vehicles.