SA’s pioneering past in developing electric vehicles is not widely recognised. One of the primary technologies in today’s vehicles is the rechargeable lithium ion battery developed by Michael Thackeray and a team of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) scientists in the 1970s. The CSIR’s sodium nickel chloride cell, known as Zebra, was also patented at the time. Yet SA no longer contributes meaningfully to this key part of the electric vehicle technology value chain. Thackeray is now a senior researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory in the US, where he has contributed to the discovery of new battery materials. The Zebra battery is made in Switzerland and features in a solar-powered bus in Australia. It is imported into SA under the FAAM brand name and remains one of the most reliable high-temperature batteries. Optimal Energy in SA developed an all-electric family car, the Joule, which was well received in 2008 at the Paris Motor Show. However, it was never com...

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