New Aluminum-Air Battery Powered Car Travels 1,800 Miles Without a Recharge
Back in April of 2012 I wrote about the evolution of battery technology for electric cars. In the posting I wrote about lithium-ion and lithium-air technology. What I didn't know was that a company named Phinergy was working on a different type of metal-air battery using aluminum and zinc plus air.
This week Phinergy, an Israeli company, along with the aluminum giant, Alcoa Canada, demonstrated an electric vehicle (EV) capable of driving 1,800 kilometers (over 1,100 miles between charges) using a combination of aluminum-air and lithium-ion storage technologies. The Phinergy aluminum-air battery at 100 kilograms (220 pounds) weight contained enough on board energy to allow the vehicle to travel up to 3,000 kilometers (over 1,860 miles). Compare that to the best, current lithium-ion batteries in the Tesla Model S sedan. At best they can do less than 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a single charge and the on board battery weighs 5 times as much.
How does an aluminum-air battery work? They use an air-electrode capable of breathing ambient air and extracting the oxygen from it. Compare this to traditional batteries which store and release oxygen from chemicals contained in a liquied or solid cathode. An air battery doesn't need to replace or recharge its cathode. And an air battery is far lighter. The combination means significantly more power for a longer period of time.
Phinergy batteries use a porous electrode with a large surface area that captures the oxygen from ambient air. The electrode also contains a silver-based catalyst that doesn't let CO2 interact with it. This unique and proprietary catalyst solves a common problem in air-battery technology, carbonization caused by CO2 permeating the electrode.
To make the aluminum-air battery even more economical they are produced in areas where electrical energy capacity and cost is low. In the case of the demonstration EV this week, the battery was forged at the Alcoa smelter in Baie-Comeau, Quebec where the company can draw on a significant hydroelectric power resource.
Aluminum-air batteries do break down over time. As they drain the metal turns into aluminum hydroxide. When spent the entire battery can be recycled to forge new aluminum-air batteries. For the air-battery operator it will mean swapping out the old battery for a new one every few months. This could be done at service centres which would keep an inventory of these batteries in supply. Tesla demonstrated its plans for charging and swap out service centres back in July of last year. In the Tesla demo the battery was swapped out in 90 seconds. So this notion of a quick battery replacement service that is as fast as refilling a conventional gas or diesel tank seems very doable.
In the case of the test car demonstrated at the Canadian International Aluminum Conference on Wednesday in Montreal, it was outfitted with both an aluminum-air and lithium-ion battery system. The notion behind this was that the EV could run on its lithium-ion charge when driving on short urban trips of 50 kilometers (31 miles) or less, but when used for longer trips the aluminum-air battery would kick in. To feed the chemical reaction from the aluminum-air battery drivers using a test car like this would add tap water every month or two to feed the chemical reaction.
Phinergy is also experimenting with other metal-air technologies. They have developed a zinc-air battery that has some advantages over aluminum. Zinc-air is extremely durable. A battery can last thousands of hours without chemical deterioration.
The company hopes to see metal-air batteries made with aluminum and zinc become the primary storage devices for transportation, for backing up renewable power sites, for electronic devices and for industry and defense.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
November 23, 2014 - LIMA COP20 will meet on December 9, 2014 in Peru. Its goal to begin shaping the global agreement by nations, industry, financial institutions and NGOs to reduce carbon emissions.
November 21, 2014 - When I was a young man we lived two blocks from a freshwater-fed pond by the name of Tillplain. Today it is gone, covered and built upon. That's where the high school I graduated from currently stands. But that pond unlocked the mysteries of life for me and so I remember it fondly.
November 21, 2014 - The Google skunk works experiments to develop autonomous vehicles is quickly opening a flood gate of new technological innovation in transportation.
November 19, 2014 - Ever wondered why not just Spiderman but lizards and all kinds of insects can climb up walls? Ever wanted to be just like Spiderman when it comes to wall climbing?
November 19, 2014 - The first natural gas power plant that completely captures carbon is about to be constructed by NET Power, a Durham, North Carolina company. The 50 Megawatt facility is being built in Texas and will go online in 2016 at a cost of $140 million U.S.
November 18, 2014 - Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a news clipping from The Washington Post. But before I talk about the content of what he forwarded I want to take you down memory lane for a minute. What was the world like before the appearance of the cellphone?
November 17, 2014 - Cambridge, England's Solar Cloth Company has announced its first trials of its solar cloth, a lightweight photovoltaic fabric designed to stretch over roofs, carports, parking lots and any other structure that normally could be covered and that cannot handle the weight of silicon-