Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche


Does China Have a Super Battery?

Chinese scientists might have made an incredible advance in battery technology and nobody noticed. Evidence that the Chinese military might have developed a new battery that is both incredibly light and very powerful is hiding in plain sight.

Sensational news stories about a “laser assault rifle” provide evidence of a super battery with far more energy density than present-day power packs. The ZKZM-500 weapon can supposedly fire more than 1,000 blasts of super-hot light.

The ZKZM-500’s laser blasts are strong enough to set flesh on fire and can travel for up to half a mile, The South China Morning Post claimed. Most intriguingly, the ZKZM-500 supposedly weighs just 6.6 pounds. Yet it is supposedly made of lithium-ion just like a smartphone battery.

Is the Chinese Laser Rifle Impossible?

To power such a laser you would need a lot of electricity, probably around 85 kilowatt hours (kWh) worth. That was the minimum charge in a discounted Tesla S series battery pack. That battery pack weighed around 1,200 pounds (540 kilograms).

This also calls The Morning Post’s claims about the ZKZM-500 into serious question. Is an infantryman going to carry 540 kilos on his back, or have a vehicle carrying a battery following him around?

If the ZKZM-500 is not a hoax as many armchair scientists think, this gives rise to two intriguing possibilities. They are:

  1. The Chinese have figured out how to greatly increase lithium-ion’s energy density while reducing its weight. There are some technologies that can make this possible such as plastic electrolytes.

  1. The ZKZM-500’s developers have access to a better battery technology than lithium-ion. Other battery materials scientists can tap include lithium sulfur, graphene, and dual carbon.


The ZKZM-500 is far more than a Ray Gun

Either way that’s a far bigger technological advance than a mere ray gun. Such a battery would greatly decrease the weight of an electric car. It would also give an electric vehicle far more power.

Consequently, this would make electric-powered aircraft such as flying taxicabs practical. It would also make it possible for almost anybody to hook up a battery backup electrical system in his or her home for a faction of the cost of Tesla Energy’s solutions.

An obvious consequence of that would be to make solar electric systems viable for everybody. Everybody would be able to go off grid by storing solar power in batteries.

That might kill electric utilities and coal companies. It would also put a major damper in the demand for natural gas. Natural gas is threatened because it is a popular fuel in power plants.

A Laser Assault Rifle is Just Dumb

Even if it is real, a laser rifle would be a very dumb use of next-generation battery technology.

A plain-old semiautomatic rifle would give a soldier the same range and firepower for a fraction of the reputed $15,000 cost of the ZKZM-500. The maximum effective range of the US Army’s venerable M-16 is around 800 meters the same as the ZKZM-500.

Comparatively, the civilian version of the M-16, the AR-15, costs around $1,200 or less a 10th of the ZKZM-500. Therefore, the ZKZM-500 makes little financial sense as a weapon.

To add to our case, the ZKZM-500 will not deliver a better performance than existing guns. All the ZKZM-500 might do is set an enemy on fire. The M-16 will probably kill with most hits.

This means the ZKZM-500 makes no sense as a weapon. However, it makes a lot of sense as a demonstration of new battery technology.

Better Uses for Super Batteries

There are numerous military uses for such battery technology that are far more logical than lasers. A few I can think of include drones, electric-powered Gatling guns, electric vehicles for soldiers to ride in, communications gear, and medical gear.

Such batteries can also power all sorts of useful tools and equipment that would have uses far behind the battlefield. Obvious devices for it include lawn mowers, chainsaws, saws, drills, and winches.

One has to wonder why such a technology is being put to such a provocative use. It would make a lot more sense to demonstrate such next generation batteries for peaceful purposes.

Why is Musk in China?

It might be no coincidence that Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk was in China when the ZKZM-500 story broke.

One has to wonder what Musk knows and if he was there looking for new battery tech. Another intriguing aspect of the story was Beijing’s willingness to roll out the red carpet for Musk. Perhaps they need his help commercializing some new technology.

Hopefully, the technology behind the ZKZM-500 will be used for something logical and peaceful than a laser. The last thing the world needs is real life ray guns.

However, the world’s people desperately need cheaper and more energy dense batteries. Hopefully, such technology is about to start rolling off China’s production lines and into our driveways and toolsheds.

Investors had better pay attention, because if the ZKZM-500 is for real, oil companies might soon be out of business. The battery that powers it might make electric vehicles cheaper to build and operate than diesel or gasoline cars.

Watch the ZKZM-500 story carefully because the ridiculous claims of laser guns point to something far bigger and potentially far more disruptive. A super battery that might put Big Oil out of business.