Northvolt Develops New Lithium-Free Battery To Rival Precious Earth Metal Ones

Swedish battery-maker Northvolt announced proudly on Tuesday that it had developed a new kind of sodium-ion battery.

(Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash)

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Not even the Swedish Chef could cook up something this appealing.

Swedish battery-maker Northvolt announced proudly on Tuesday that it had developed a new kind of sodium-ion battery that’s just as efficient as batteries that use precious earth metals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel, but is totally free of them. That’s good news for everyone outside of China, which dominates the supply chain for the aforementioned metals that power EVs and other things in the green economy.

That Lithium’s So Hot Right Now

With peak oil looming, even big gas and oil companies are hopping on the precious earth metal train. ExxonMobil announced last week that it plans to push into lithium production by 2027.

Northvolt’s CEO Peter Carlsson cited China’s tent-pole position as a major selling point for a lithium-free product. In an interview with the Financial Times Carlsson emphasized the product’s potential to wean companies off China, a message that’s sure to jive with a European Commission currently conducting an antitrust probe into cheap China-made EVs:

The emergence of efficient sodium-ion batteries could cool off the race for lithium dominance — and less mining would mean less environmental damage. Who knows, maybe it would take the heat out of the argument over whether it’s okay to mine the seabed, a geopolitical argument that has countries in a standoff with each other.

If You Can’t Take the Heat: Of course, Northvolt’s new battery won’t immediately supplant lithium and chums. Carlsson told the FT the company plans to start handing out samples next year, and then ramp up to full production by 2030. There’s also a question over whether the sodium-ion batteries can compete on price, but Carlsson said he’s confident the company can bring the price down. He’s especially optimistic about sales in hot countries, as the battery can run more safely in high temperatures than its lithium forefathers.