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Swedish Company Says It's Made Huge Battery Breakthrough

Rob Quinn

Dec 17, 2023

High-capacity battery doesn't use any critical minerals

Europe's leading battery maker says it has made a breakthrough that could reduce the world's reliance on China. Swedish company Northvolt, founded in 2015 by two former Tesla execs, says its new sodium-ion battery doesn't use the critical minerals lithium, nickel, graphite, and cobalt—and it has an energy density of 160 watt-hours per kilogram, making it suitable for large-scale energy storage, though it's well below the average of 250-300 watt-hours per kilo lithium batteries in electric cars typically have. Instead of the critical minerals, which have fluctuating prices and can be a fire hazard, Northvolt's new batteries use a form of the pigment Prussian blue, the Financial Times reports.

"Using sodium-ion technology is not new but we think this is the first product ever completely free from critical raw materials. It is a fundamental breakthrough," said Patrik Andreasson, Northvolt's vice-president of strategy and sustainability, per the Guardian. "This provides an option that is not dependent on certain parts of the world, including China." Sifted describes batteries without critical minerals as the "holy grail for the green transition." Anders Thor, the company's communications director, says that while this generation of batteries is best suited for energy storage, there is a "distinct path towards higher energy densities that also enables them for usage for vehicles, which will severely reduce cost and increase sustainability for electric mobility."

Northvolt's main business is supplying lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, but the company believes the sodium-ion battery market could end up being worth tens of billions of dollars, the FT reports. It makes batteries at a gigafactory just below the Arctic Circle in Sweden and is building plants in Canada and Germany as well as another one in Sweden. The company says it has not decided yet where it will manufacture the new sodium-ion battery developed in its labs. In a setback for Northvolt, two workers died this week after separate accidents at the Swedish plant, the Local reports. A construction worker in his 60s was fatally injured by a falling pallet on Thursday and a 25-year-old man injured in an accident on the production line last month died Friday.

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