First EV with a lithium-free sodium-ion battery to the road in January 2024

JAC Motors, supported by Volkswagen, is set to release the first mass-produced electric vehicle with a sodium-ion battery under the new Yiwei brand. Despite lower energy density, sodium-ion batteries offer cost advantages, abundant supplies, and superior cold-weather performance. The Yiwei EV, a rebranded Sehol E10X hatchback, starts deliveries in January 2024.

First EV with a lithium-free sodium-ion battery to the road in January 2024
Image: JAC Motors SA

The electric vehicle (EV) landscape is about to witness a seismic shift with the arrival of the first mass-produced sodium-ion battery-powered car. JAC Motors, a prominent Chinese automaker backed by Volkswagen, is at the forefront of this revolution with its new Yiwei brand and its groundbreaking sodium-ion technology.

A Promising Alternative to Lithium-Ion:

While lithium-ion batteries have dominated the EV market so far, concerns about their cost, environmental impact, and limited resources have fueled the search for alternative solutions. Sodium-ion batteries offer a compelling proposition. They utilize abundant sodium, readily available from seawater and other sources, making them significantly cheaper and more sustainable than lithium. Additionally, sodium-ion batteries boast superior performance in cold weather, a crucial factor for regions with harsh winters.

The Yiwei EV: A Pioneer in Sodium-Ion Technology:

JAC’s Yiwei EV hatchback is poised to be the first commercially available vehicle powered by sodium-ion batteries. This marks a significant milestone in the development of this promising technology and paves the way for wider EV adoption. Although details are still emerging, early reports suggest the Yiwei EV will offer a decent range of 252 km (157 miles) on a 25 kWh battery pack. Its 120 Wh/kg energy density and 3C to 4C fast charging capabilities further enhance its appeal.

First EV with a lithium-free sodium-ion battery to the road in January 2024
Image: JAC Motors SA

JAC and Volkswagen: A Strategic Partnership:

JAC Motors’ partnership with Volkswagen plays a crucial role in this technological leap. Volkswagen’s 75% stake in JAC and 50% ownership of JAC’s parent company, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Holdings (JAG), provides the necessary financial and technological backing for JAC’s ambitious endeavors. This collaboration between a Chinese automaker and a global giant signifies the growing importance of the Chinese EV market and the potential for international cooperation in driving innovation.

From Sehol E10X to Yiwei EV: A Rebranding Story:

The Yiwei EV appears to be a rebranded version of the Sehol E10X hatchback, unveiled earlier this year. This reflects JAC’s strategic decision to consolidate its brand portfolio under either JAC or Yiwei. While the E10X moniker might be dropped, the core technology and functionalities remain largely unchanged.

Beyond the Yiwei EV: A Glimpse into JAC’s Sodium-Ion Vision:

The Yiwei EV is just the first step in JAC’s sodium-ion battery roadmap. The company showcased another EV, the Yiwei 3, at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2023. While the initial launch featured an LFP lithium battery, JAC promised a sodium-ion variant in the future. This demonstrates their commitment to diversifying their battery offerings and promoting the wider adoption of sodium-ion technology.

First EV with a lithium-free sodium-ion battery to the road in January 2024
Image: JAC via CarNewsChina

JAC’s Modular UE Battery Design: Optimizing Performance:

JAC’s approach to battery assembly is noteworthy as well. The company utilizes its modular UE (Unitized Encapsulation) honeycomb structure, similar to the CTP (cell-to-pack) technology employed by CATL and BYD’s Blade design. This innovative approach offers several advantages, including enhanced stability, improved thermal management, and potentially higher energy density in the future.

The Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities:

While the Yiwei EV marks a significant breakthrough, challenges remain for sodium-ion batteries to fully compete with their lithium-ion counterparts. Their lower energy density and shorter lifespan are areas that require further research and development. However, the cost-effectiveness, abundance of resources, and superior cold-weather performance of sodium-ion batteries hold immense potential for the future of EVs.

JAC Motors’ initiative with the Yiwei EV is a bold step towards unlocking this potential. Their collaboration with Volkswagen and their commitment to continuous innovation position them as pioneers in the race for a more sustainable and accessible EV future. As the technology matures and production scales up, sodium-ion batteries could become a game-changer, democratizing EV ownership and accelerating the transition towards a cleaner transportation landscape.

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Source(s): Engadget

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