European manufacturing plan for sodium battery technology

March 30, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
European manufacturing plan for sodium battery technology
Tiamat Energy has raised €5m to start production of sodium battery cells in Europe for electric cars.

Tiamat Energy in France is planning to produce sodium battery cells in Europe for hybrid cars and support for solar power and wind turbines. Sodium technology is safer than lithium ion and can charge in a few minutes without requiring rare materials such as cobalt.

Tiamat was set up in 2017 as a spin-off of the French CNRS research laboratory with the technology developed over the last eight years and has raised €5m in its first major funding round. The company is also part of the Steering Committee for Automotive Research and Mobility (CORAM) set up by the French government to support the automotive sector as a key technology.

“The main thing is that the sodium family is as wide as the lithium ion family. In this family you have layered oxides, which is where [UK startup] Faradion is focussed on energy density focussed and does not do power,” said Hervé Beuffe, founder and president of Tiamat Energy told eeNews Europe Power. “It about the choice of the materials,” he said.

“We have a poly ionic compound and that is doing a lot of power in charge and discharge using fluoride and a little bit vanadium. This gives us 40 to 50C [fast charging in 10 minutes] at 3.7V, exactly the same at NMC [lithium ion cells]. On the downside is the energy density, from 90Wh/kg up to 120Wh/kg [compared to 400Wh/kg now for lithium metal] but we won’t go further. A 100 percent EV using the batteries would have a restricted range nevertheless it allows a fully charge in 10 minutes. This could benefit little cars used in cities, especially with a fleet operator that wants the cars out on the road all the time,” he said.

“We are also looking at the hybridisation of primary energy, internal combustion engines (ICE) or fuel cells, and these need a symmetrical pack to incorporate the energy from braking and that’s where we are aligned with the market,” he said. “The full hybrid is dominated by Japanese technology so we want to make our proof of concept in the 48V world first,” he said. “For the moment we do not intend to do a plug in hybrid more stop start. But there are opportunities in railway power with hydrogen and diesel engines, as well as hybrid aircraft turbine – we are safer than lithium.”

“If we go to hybrids it’s for 400V packs and railway is 800V to 900V,” he said. “At the moment I can’t disclose manufacturing but the first production is for projects on industrial production lines at gigafactories, there is no change to a production line except parameters such a speed or temperature, there is no modification needed,” he said.

All this fits well with the EU's push for more battery manufacturing capacity in Europe.

“The trouble is the EU agenda doesn’t match with our timescales,” said Beuffe. “We need volume in two month and the EU capacity won’t be ready before 2023 or 2024 so we have been forced to find existing capacity but this does not have to last. By 2023 we think we can have that started with perhaps production in 2025. The demand for 48V battery packs in MHEV mild hybrid electric vehicles will double by 2025 because it will also electrify new devices in order to increase the reduction of CO2 emissions (preheating the catalytic converter, for example) and be used for regenerative braking.

Timat is working with Plastic Omnium to develop a 48V sodium battery pack for MHEV vehicles that will be offered to all car manufacturers.

"The project aims to develop, manufacture and test a system to confirm the performance of sodium ion electrochemistry according to the specifications of the automobile manufacturers as a first step, then to prepare the industrial deployment of the solution," said Yannick Raynaud, Mechatronic Expertise Director of Plastic Omnium Auto Energy.

The project also strengthens Plastic Omnium's competence in the deployment of a global offer of a system for hydrogen vehicles integrating the fuel cell, high pressure hydrogen tanks and also the management of batteries suitable for combined use with fuel cells. “Beyond the hybridization of fossil energy sources in mobility, our technology is quite adequate to support the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles which need the reinforcement of a power battery for the acceleration phases in particular. It is a promising market that is taking shape, and on which we want to develop ourselves," said Beuffe.

€3.5m of this second round of funding comes from Finovam and Picardie Investissement (both present in the first round), CAP3RI, Nord France amorçage, Celeste Management, Sicae Somme, Sem Somme Energies who join the existing shareholders, CNRS and staff.

Production of the sodiium battery cells will start in 2025 with a ramp-up in manufacturing to reach 6GWh annual production by 2030. In the long term, Tiamat aims to produce its cells in Europe and preferably in France with production capacities either on its own or in partnership says Beuffe.

www.tiamat-energy.com

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Picture: 
Hervé Beuffe, founder and president of Tiamat Energy

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