Plenty zinc supplies could replace lithium for batteries

With the latest decisions of the Chinese government to restrict rare earth exports including lithium to global markets, the automotive industry might be wise to consider other materials for batteries.

One battery technology in the labs uses zinc and air; hence, it is called zinc-air, where the atmosphere is part of the chemical equation.

As reported in the International Business section of the Economic Times, China is not bowing to international pressures to loosen its export quotas; and that includes lithium. Nonetheless, America should not be held hostage as it is with oil, especially when zinc supplies are plentiful.

The main advantage of utilizing zinc-air batteries for vehicle propulsion is its energy availability, as zinc metal is 100 times greater than that of lithium, per unit of battery energy.

The second advantage is, zinc’s supply in the world is more readily available. According to Machine Design, approximately 35% of the world's supply, or 1.8 giga-tons of zinc reserves are in the United States, whereas the U.S. holds less than 1% of known lithium reserves.

This is supported by ev.world.com that reports zinc production ranks fourth in the world, after iron, aluminum and copper.

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