It may be about that time to seriously start considering an electric vehicle (EV) as a practical alternative to the internal combustion engine.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes, just consider this for a moment: a reliable, efficient vehicle that can travel up to 1,000 miles before even considering a recharge – there’s no gas or diesel engine that can do that.
That’s what Phinergy has done. The privately owned Israeli-based tech company claims to have created a car battery that will leave present EV models in its dust.
The biggest knock to existing EVs is that you can’t depend on them for long distances, and while charging stations are popping up more and more, they’re still few and far between. The majority of EV owners use their EVs as a secondary mode of transportation – something to use to drive to work and play around with on the weekends. But that’s just not a realistic option for most consumers – the trust simply is not there on a full time basis.
If there were a way to store more energy than with today’s lithium-ion batteries, it would make the EV a very appealing alternative for both automakers and consumers alike.
Battery Technology Solutions
And Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery may just be the key that revolutionizes the EV and solves that riddle. If what people need from an EV is a battery that can ‘go the distance,’ then it may have arrived.
A conventional aluminum-air battery functions, as described by Discovery News, like this:
Very simply, an aluminum-air battery uses an aluminum plate as the anode, and ambient air as the cathode, with the aluminum slowly being sacrificed as its molecules combine with oxygen to give off energy. The basic chemical equation is four aluminum atoms, three oxygen molecules, and six water molecules combining to produce four molecules of hydrated aluminum oxide plus energy.
Until now, aluminum-air batteries were mainly restricted to military applications due to high replacement anode costs and the removal of its aluminum oxide byproduct, but the potential as compared to the typically used lithium-ion battery has always been there.
The main problem: aluminum-air cells break down and lose the ability to produce electricity.
Phinergy’s battery has a special patented cathode material that prevents that process from happening. It allows oxygen in ambient air to enter the battery cell uninterrupted and blocks carbon dioxide in the air where problems occur in a typical aluminum-air cell, according to Discovery News.
Each aluminum plate would hold enough energy to run the vehicle for 20 miles, Discovery News reports, and there would be 50 plates in all – enough energy to supply the EV for 1,000 miles. And its weight is significantly lighter than a lithium-ion battery at just 55 pounds.
Aluminum is a great metal considering production efforts; not only is it lightweight, but it’s easily obtainable, inexpensive, easily recycled, and it contains high amounts of energy – 8 kilowatt-hours per kilogram.
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The second aspect to Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery, the International Business Times reports, is its use of water that interacts with and recycles hydrated aluminum oxide, which in turn creates an anode that gives the battery a sustained life or a recharge and avoids long charging time.
In a conventional aluminum-air battery, aluminum reacts to oxygen and produces electricity that way, and also breaks down and loses its ability to produce any charge or energy over time.
If Phinergy’s battery is everything it says it is, then the auto industry is going to have to take a hard look at the future of EVs. After all, a battery that can run a vehicle for 1,000 miles would eliminate every fear it currently faces.
One such company that is chomping at the bit is the Franco-Japanese Renault-Nissan Alliance, a partnership of Renault SA (EPA: RNO) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (OTC: NSANY), according to International Business Times. A contract to begin production and start rolling out its first line is already underway.
You won’t see it in a showroom anytime soon, but Phinergy is aiming to have its EV model hit the consumer market by 2017. If you think about it, it’s really not so far off, as here we are in early 2013 and we’re already starting to see some 2014 models out on the road.
Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery leaves a lot of questions out on the table as it nears production, but one thing is for certain: as the company slogan goes, the future is in the air.
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