Acculon Energy

Power Play: Choosing the Right Cell Chemistry for Optimal Battery Design

As new technology emerges, is lithium-ion still the best cell chemistry for all electric off-road industrial applications? Join us below as we explore the potential of sodium-ion vs lithium-ion cell chemistries, & examine the factors that influence cell selection in the context of advanced energy storage systems & electrification.

Contact: Betsy Barry
Communication Manager

In the ever-evolving landscape of energy storage, the heart of innovation pulses with the selection of the right cell chemistry. While lithium batteries have dominated the electrification movement, powering everything from pocket-sized devices to interstellar crafts, there’s a new cell chemistry that is stirring up a lot of excitement these days: sodium ion. However, the road to its widespread adoption is not a foregone conclusion as of yet, and there are different cell chemistries to choose from when considering an energy storage solution to power your off-road application. 

In the initial stages of designing an electric battery module or pack for mobility and industrial applications, selecting cell chemistry plays a crucial role. Cell chemistry dictates energy and power density, safety, lifespan, thermal behavior, system and lifecycle costs, etc–pretty much everything. At the same time, no solution meets all the requirements of a particular application. So designing an optimal energy storage solution is always a balance of what requirements can be met by a battery pack vs. cost, weight, volume, lifetime, safety, and power capabilities.


In today’s off-road/off-highway applications, lithium-ion battery packs tend to prevail in more and more design decisions for all-electric and hybrid applications and can be found anywhere from warehouses to construction sites. That said, researchers and engineers are continually exploring alternative cell technologies to overcome some of the limitations associated with lithium batteries, looking for the next advanced solution across all market segments. Enter sodium-ion batteries. If you are familiar with battery tech-related media, then you have no doubt heard the news that sodium-ion batteries are the next big thing in advanced energy storage solutions.

Conversations surrounding sodium-ion are abundant in the electrification landscape; however, their emergence in the off-road/off-highway market, while highly anticipated, has still not come to fruition. Even though most cell manufacturing companies developing sodium-ion over the past decade have made significant progress, these cells are just now approaching the scale needed to create a viable alternative to lithium products. So, as we find ourselves on the precipice of this advanced technology, what factors could stall its broader adoption into industrial applications? Conversely, what aspects of sodium-ion make it a more attractive cell chemistry?

In the sodium-ion space, various companies are actively working towards commercializing three primary types of cathode active materials: oxides, polyanion-type, and hexacyanometalates. Each of these material types has specific pros and cons, but all of them have the potential to create high-performing sodium-ion batteries; however, it seems that the oxide-based materials are ahead in the game. Meanwhile, only one type of anode-active material, amorphous carbon, is commonly used in industrial sodium-ion cells. So, the winning active materials chemistry combinations seem to have been identified in the race to commercialization. 

The optimal blends of active materials have demonstrated remarkable performance in sodium-ion batteries, nearly matching the gravimetric energy density of LFP lithium-ion chemistry and slightly surpassing it in terms of volumetric energy density. So while some demanding mobility applications may not be a good fit for sodium-ion batteries, industrial, stationary, and non-demanding mobility may soon have a choice between both sodium-ion and lithium chemistries, if other metrics beyond energy density are aligned with the application requirements.

Though lithium-ion battery packs are the common choice for off-road/off-highway industrial applications today, new sodium-ion technology could cause a major shift. 

Enhanced performance in cold temperature environments, durability, & potential to decrease supply chain volatility could make sodium-ion batteries a better fit for a variety of applications.

As soon as energy storage system manufacturers get verified performance data on the sodium-ion cells that meet the needs of real system requirements, the implementation of the chemistry will likely start immediately. As discussed in last week’s post, at Acculon Energy, we have been conducting our own research into sodium-ion cells that are entering the market. The results so far are very promising.  For one of the earliest available on-market cell types,  the 80% capacity limit is projected to be reached after about 1550 cycles. This level of durability opens the door to numerous diverse applications, including off-road/off-highway applications. 

The degradation behavior of lithium-ion batteries is well-documented: under moderate conditions, LFP batteries typically endure 2000-8000 cycles, while energy-dense NCA or NMC batteries usually last 1000-4000 cycles. Hence, sodium-ion batteries already exhibit comparable capacity degradation to lithium-ion batteries. A few sodium-ion cell types available on the market are showing a very mild degradation rate, and the linear approximation of current cycling data predicts a range of 3000 or 6500 cycles to reach 80% capacity, depending on the cell type.

The true differentiator of sodium vs lithium-ion batteries is the cold temperature performance. 
For applications that must perform optimally in extreme weather and climates, like ground equipment, sodium-ion could be a better choice.

Another aspect of sodium-ion batteries that makes them an attractive alternative to lithium-ion is that sodium is more readily available and abundant than lithium, and the availability of electrode materials for sodium-ion batteries is generally better than lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, supply chain volatility could be less of a concern for sodium-ion chemistry than lithium-ion.

Currently, the manufacturing infrastructure, supply chains, and production processes for sodium-ion batteries are not as mature as lithium, which leads to higher manufacturing costs. Scaling up production and optimizing manufacturing processes to reduce costs are necessary for sodium-ion batteries to become more economically competitive, but this is certainly on the horizon.

Looking to the future of electrification, a range of industrial markets, like construction and other off-road segments, will continue to gain momentum, driving the need for advanced energy storage solutions. In response to this growing demand, research and development efforts in the field of battery technology are expected to accelerate, focusing on innovation, efficiency, and sustainability. Engineers and scientists at Acculon Energy and other organizations driving electrification will strive to enhance the performance and safety of existing lithium-ion batteries while exploring emerging technologies such as sodium-ion, solid-state, and different novel cell chemistries. Continued advancements in materials science, manufacturing processes, and battery management systems will pave the way for breakthroughs in energy density, faster charging capabilities, extended cycle life, and increased affordability. Acculon’s continued pursuit of progress in battery technology will play a pivotal role in unlocking the full potential of electrification across industries, contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable future.