Fairy-tale solution to battery shortage

FAIRIES are magical creatures that can solve almost any problem and the big hassle for the electric vehicle makers now is where to find the lithium required for their batteries.

The answer, a Chinese car maker says, lies in flower power — well, salt power, actually.

JAC’s Hua Xianzi (Chinese for Flower Fairy) could well be the answer.

The cute, diminutive car, just-unveiled at the Second Chinese National Conference on Na-ion Batteries, is the result of a joint venture by JAC and Volkswagen.

Believe it or not, it runs on salt-based batteries.

JAC says the scarcity and cost of lithium has been a worrisome factor in the industry and the company should know, since it has several EVs in its stable.

Its latest product uses a 25kWh sodium-ion battery supplied by HiNa Battery Technologies and makes a lot of sense in so far as sodium is in plentiful supply and a lot cheaper than lithium.

One disadvantage is that the salty ones have a lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries, so the equivalent size battery will offer less range between charges.

Still, JAC claims that its new compact hatchback can cover some 250km on a single charge, which is adequate for most folk in urban environments.

The demonstration car has a total energy capacity of 25kWh and energy density of more than 140Wh per kilogram.

Also sodium-ion batteries are less prone to overheating and self-igniting.

They are also said to offer better low-temperature performance, faster charging speed and a longer life span — not to mention that they’re also a safer option for large-scale energy storage.

China currently imports 70 per cent of its lithium and the development of China’s EV industry might be affected due to limited supply of the metal and the recent surge in its price, according to a report by Guotai Junan Securities.

General manager of HiNa Battery, Li Shujun, said the company will facilitate the application of the sodium-ion battery in various electric vehicles and electricity storage infrastructures.

JAC is little-known in Australia, but has been going for nearly 60 years and makes a range of cars, SUVs, utes and trucks, which are sold in various parts of the world, ranging from Kazakhstan and Chile to Mexico, Europe and South Africa.

It is due to launch in Australia again very soon with diesel and electric-powered utes after a brief attempt at selling some trucks here 12 years ago.

“The future of electric vehicles looks promising with the introduction of more affordable and sustainable battery technology,” JAC’s Karl-Heinz Gobel said.

“With the development of new battery technology, EV pricing will become more competitive, giving more car buyers access to new-energy vehicles.”

So Flower Fairies could well become common global sights if motorists and the auto industry pursue the road to the salt mines.


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