When you factor in cars, trucks, planes, trains and shipping, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the US. If we’re going to have any chance of addressing climate change, we’ll need to move away from burning fossil fuels in our cars. There’s just one problem with most electric vehicles: they depend on lithium-ion batteries made with heavy metals like cobalt. Not only is the material in short supply, but it’s mined in a way that involves child labor and the destruction of the environment. For those reasons, companies like IBM, Panasonic and Tesla have tried to make electric batteries without heavy metals.
So far, many of those efforts have yet to make it out of the lab, but a Chinese company called SVOLT claims it’s ready to start producing a cobalt-free battery at scale. At the Chengdu Motor Show, the firm showed off an 82.5KWh capacity power pack inside a vehicle from Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors. Under normal temperatures, SVOLT says its battery can deliver approximately 373 miles of range on a single charge and allow a car to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.
SVOLT said the battery is “expected” to make its way to cars that go on sale in the Chinese market but didn’t offer a timeline of when that might happen, nor did it say just how many cobalt-free power packs it can manufacture at the moment. It's also worth pointing out other companies are making cobalt-free batteries at scale. As Electrek points out, most of the Model 3 units Tesla sells in China feature a lithium iron phosphate battery made by Contemporary Amperex Technology.