20 April 2019
It is believed that a super battery based on graphene technology won’t be available for commercial use in at least a decade. Photo: ECN
It is believed that a super battery based on graphene technology won’t be available for commercial use in at least a decade. Photo: ECN

Some misunderstanding over Huawei’s super battery

Reports about Huawei having successfully built a super battery have been circulating in mainland media recently, including traditional ones like Shenzhen Economic Daily and China Business Times as well as online media and social platforms.

According to the reports, Huawei has developed the world’s first graphene battery, which can be fully charged in just 20 seconds and can last for a month.

It can also withstand much higher temperature, suggesting that exploding batteries like those for Samsung’s recalled Note 7 would never happen in this case.

Some reports even said the battery will be launched this month, and the new product can easily crush rivals like Apple and Samsung.

Graphene is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms, known to be the thinnest and strongest material of its kind. It is also highly conductive.

The material was discovered by a physics professor at the University of Manchester in 1948. Two British-based scientists won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010 for their research on graphene.

Graphene could make the current battery technology obsolete.

Elon Musk, founder Tesla, believes the graphene battery would enable electric vehicles to recharge instantly and drive non-stop for 1,000 kilometers.

A number of global technology giants like Apple, Samsung, Tesla and Huawei have spent massive resources on developing graphene technology.

Still, it’s widely believed that mass production won’t be possible in a decade.

That’s why Huawei’s “breakthrough” came as a huge surprise.

But it turned out the whole thing was just a misunderstanding, and some are blaming a tricky presentation by Huawei’s public relations firm for the confusion.

If we look at the original announcement, we will see that what Huawei has developed is actually graphene-assisted, high-temperature Li-ion battery, which can run hotter than a traditional Li-ion battery by 10°C and last 100 percent longer.

However, Huawei’s new battery is much bigger and mainly intended for outdoor charging stations, and has absolutely nothing to do with mobile phones.

In the press release on which the reports were based, the first four paragraphs talk about the new product, but in the last paragraph, it suddenly switches to Huawei’s soon-to-be-launched mobile phone with faster charging feature.

“Huawei released the fast-charging technology that charges 48 percent of a 3,000mAh battery in just five minutes last year. And Dr. Li Yangxing said the company is close to commercialize the technology and launch a new fast-charging mobile phone by the end of December,” says the release.

But the last paragraph has nothing to do with the first four.

And the mobile phone battery mentioned is not a new technology at all. Rivals like Sony and Samsung have already developed something similar.

Also, Huawei has remained quiet as the rumor runs wild, apparently trying to take advantage of the huge publicity.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 8.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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