This is how rumors start. We recently read a story about how Toyota might be working on sodium-ion batteries that would boost capacity throughout its electric vehicle (EV) lineup. The gist? These could be batteries that drive a Toyota EV 500 to 1,000 kilometers (about 310 to 621 miles) on a single charge. That's about 30 percent higher than the range capacity of typical lithium-ion batteries.

As reported initially by The Nikkei, the new sodium-ion battery is the size of a coin and functions at room temperature. Its sodium-based chemical compound acts as the positive electrode for the battery. If sodium-ion batteries make it to the market, they could be much cheaper than li-ion batteries, since sodium is abundant in seawater, and lithium is still relatively expensive. Also, Toyota is concerned electric vehicles won't become popular until they can go 500 to 1,000 kilometers on a charge. The company will continue its research to see if this is possible. If so, sodium-ion technology could be put into commercial use by 2020.

That's the tale, anyway.

The way this story developed legs, according to Toyota public affairs manager Cindy Knight, is that some Toyota engineers gave a highly technical paper at a battery conference last month. Following their talk, "they spoke with a reporter from Nikkei, who apparently misunderstood that they were talking about eventualities, and ended up exaggerating the capabilities," Knight said. "In fact [sodium-ion is] nowhere near production, just basic materials research they were presenting on. So yes, it's one of many chemistries we are exploring."

Sumitomo Chemical and Sumitomo Electric also have confidence in sodium. They're both testing out sodium-ion prototypes though they may not have direct competition with what Toyota is producing. Sumitomo Chemical's sodium battery storage capacity is around 90 percent that of comparable li-ion batteries, and Sumitomo Electric's battery could be utilized as a backup power source.

As for potential direct competition, there is a company that's working on making lithium ion batteries from brine in seawater. Simbol Materials, based on Pleasanton, CA, is setting up a plant to extract lithium from salty water, but that method is still in the testing phase. Simbol is developing a li-ion battery from brine that would be cheaper than what's typically available on the market.




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Months Ago
      At 1000 km autonomy and with a lower price im interrested to buy. It will be a 100% electric car but i want that they fit also a hydrogen fuelcell to increase the range even more as hydrogen fuelcell is also 100% electric. That way the range is stretched to 2000 Km, the perfect range for someone lazy to plan recharging time and to find a complicated fast charger on the road and we do not know what plug to use like chademo or supercharger or sae j1772 240 volt 3 phase or direct current at 400 volt. All in all you have 10% chance of finding a compatible fast charger somewhere and you will lose 3 to 4 hours recharging. As for hydrogen, it cost few and refill in 5 minutes.
      HVH20
      • 2 Months Ago
      The seperator is the most expensive part of a lithium battery cell... While lithium isnt cheap, its a very small portion of the actual lithium battery cell.
        krona2k
        • 2 Months Ago
        @HVH20
        I bet this and other websites will continue to state that the cost of lithium is significant with regards to the cost of lithium batteries though. It's really quite ridiculous. This information then gets repeated in comment sections on other websites and so it perpetuates.
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Months Ago
        @HVH20
        Exactly. It's estimated that the lithium in a lithium ion battery is about two percent of the cost. So, if you decreased the cost by 50% you really only save 1% of the cost of the battery. That is even if you presume without evidence that the cathode, anode and electrolyte will remain about the same price, which of course appears improbable.
      MTN RANGER
      • 2 Months Ago
      This seems similar to the Envia battery technology as far as range improvement. It will be interesting to see who comes to the market with a production version.
      Dave D
      • 2 Months Ago
      "Toyota is concerned electric vehicles won't become popular until they can go 500 to 1,000 kilometers on a charge" Maybe they'll simply grow steadily as they meet the needs for more and more people. Great is sometimes the enemy of good enough.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Months Ago
      That's so funny. I was literally reading about how sodium batteries were the future of batteries in a magazine dated 1979. They also mentioned electric bikes. Guess which one has been a tease and which one came to life? :)
      Val
      • 2 Months Ago
      Sodium ion coin cells sound like the project an american company is trying to pursue, led by Prof Jay Whitacre if i am not mistaken. The idea is that is is cheap storage for grid applications, not for EVs. Is this really a toyota research project, or a summary of what sodium ion batteries could bring? Because lithium ion from a chemical perspective is the best possible ion to use in a battery, it has one valence electron and only one electron shell, sodium has an additional shell (and also one electron). Lithium atoms give away their electron easier than sodium atoms. Sodium atoms are also "bigger". There is a table of the potential of different atoms against a hydrogen anode, and lithium has the highest theoretical potential. Not sure where i have seen it though. Besides, capacity is not the only thing that is important in a battery, cycle life and power density are especially important for an EV.
      Ashton
      • 2 Months Ago
      Another day, another "amazing future battery" article.
      • 2 Months Ago
      This is where the Toyota/Tesla partnership can really come into play; Tesla's dedication for all-electric cars will be able to drive innovation for new battery technology, and Toyota's long establishment will create the foundation for that innovation. Hopefully both can create viable products soon, as the EV Revolution is about to start!
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Months Ago
      Sodium batteries are a nice research project, but they will struggle to compete with NiMH and Li-ion at least for vehicle applications. Hydride and Lithium ions are much smaller than a sodium ion. You have to insert these things into the electrode materials. I think you can see where this is going. you can store more small things in a solids gaps than big things. Now, for grid or stationary applications cost is the main driver, so if you can come up with an anode and cathode for a sodium battery that is really low cost, you might have a good stationary battery, but your not likely to beat hydride and lithium ion for energy and power density.