Volkswagen has collaborated with China-based JAC Motors to create the world’s first sodium-powered car. The vehicle’s sodium battery offers a safer, lower-cost, and easier-to-produce alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

Sodium-based battery technology has already gained traction in China’s electric scooter market. Manufacturers are increasingly switching to sodium to address the rising costs of lithium. The Cool Down reports that Niu, a Chinese scooter manufacturer, plans to launch a sodium-ion scooter within the next year.

Sodium is cheaper than lithium because it’s 1400 times more abundant. Sodium also has the advantage of not requiring environmentally destructive mining practices.

The Volkswagen-JAC sodium-powered car is called Hua Xianzi (The Flower Fairy). The vehicle can charge from 10% to 80% in 25 minutes or less.

The vehicle’s sodium-powered battery offers several advantages. The battery retains optimal performance at temperatures as low as -40° F (-40° C). In contrast, lithium-ion batteries lose 30% of their range at just 25° F (-4° C).

In addition, the battery lasts for 3,000 charge cycles. Lithium-ion batteries only last for about 500 cycles.

The Flower Fairy can cover a distance of 155 miles (250 km) on a single charge. This is significantly less than the industry average of 200 to 300 miles (322 to 483 km). The sodium car’s low range highlights one of the main weaknesses of sodium batteries, namely their low energy density.

However, scientists are making substantial progress in boosting the energy density of sodium batteries. In October, Chinese researchers developed solid-state sodium ion batteries with energy densities of up to 160 watt hours per kilogram. This is comparable to the energy densities of lithium-ion batteries.

JAC unveiled a prototype of the vehicle last February. In October, the vehicle received official approval from Chinese regulators.

The Flower Fairy is set to be manufactured through the Sehol brand, which was jointly established by JAC and Volkswagen in 2017.

At the time, each company had a 50% ownership stake in the joint venture. Volkswagen has since increased its ownership stake to 75%.

Image Source: JAC Motors