What kind of company can attract former United States congressman Lester Wolff to front its press conference in Hong Kong, claim to have a plaque from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan hanging in its boardroom, pledge to double the value of industrial output in the city of Shenzhen within a few years and aspire to make the world a better place to live? The company would be National New Energy, founded by chairman and chief engineer Chung Hing-ka. It claims to have invented a new type of lithium ion battery which is safe and large enough to use in commercial applications previously thought impossible, such as powering environmentally-friendly cars. Mr Chung, a self-taught engineer who originally trained to be a Chinese herbalist, said he invented the battery after years of experimentation. He believed fossil fuels would run out, creating a business opportunity for alternative energy. 'We've managed to invent a product that is quite spectacular and completely against conventional thinking in battery engineering,' he said, referring to the product developed by the firm's Zhong Xinjia. Major battery manufacturers, the biggest of them being Sony, have invested as much as US$6 billion in trying to develop what he has already done and patented in 26 countries. And, while his competitors have not had much success, Mr Chung says his line of batteries already has sales of one million yuan (about HK$937,200) a day through a small Shenzhen firm, Thunder Sky Green Power Source (Shenzhen). The chief benefit of lithium ion battery technology is a bigger charge in a smaller package, against nickel metal hydride batteries - the best power source for commercially available electric vehicles, such as General Motors' EV-1 - available to consumers in the United States. Existing lithium ion batteries are small, limited to powering cellular telephones and laptop computers, because they tend to be unstable, dangerous and explode easily in larger sizes. But Mr Chung says his products have been proven safe, even in military applications, by rigorous tests conducted by People's Liberation Army laboratories. They are as much as a third the size of a comparable nickel metal hydride battery and can have up to three or four times more range in a vehicle application. He claims both Ford and Citroen have development vehicles powered by his products and the Beijing municipal transit authority is experimenting with an electric bus of his company's design. Thunder Sky's advances have led the Shenzhen municipal government to become involved in National New Energy to build a jointly-owned manufacturing facility, to open in June. It will have a capacity for 25 billion yuan in annual battery sales. This plant will supply the domestic market while a smaller factory to be built in Hong Kong this year, wholly private and not involving Chinese Government entities, would make products for export, especially to the important US market. Mr Chung's batteries also differ from other alternative energy sources, such as fuel cells, because of low production costs. 'The fuel cell car will never take off commercially because it will always be too expensive to manufacture,' he said, adding that the technology was a red herring from vested interests in the vehicle and energy industry that did not want to see advances from the status quo of the internal combustion-engine. 'For HK$10,000, I can make one of my battery packs to power a small car,' Mr Chung said. He said he employed bodyguards to protect him from people who did not want to see his products widely available. But, convinced the planet's future is riding on his products, Mr Chung can be justified in being a little cautious.