The Israeli company Phinergy, in conjunction with the aluminum manufacturer, Alcoa Canada, has introduced an electric car that is capable of traveling over 1,000 miles on one full charge of the battery. The vehicle accomplishes this by utilizing a combination of lithium-ion and aluminum-air storage technologies. Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds), and can power a car to travel up to 3,000 kilometers (over 1,860 miles). The best lithium-ion batteries, which are present in the Tesla Model S sedan, can only go 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a single charge and weigh five times as much as the aluminum-air battery.
The batteries utilize an air-electrode that can “breathe” in ambient air and extract oxygen from it, as opposed to common batteries, which store and release oxygen from the chemicals contained within it. This makes the battery lighter, which removes more stress on the electric car. An air battery is also different in that it does not need to replace or repair its cathode. This combination means more power for a longer period of time.
Phinergy’s batteries use a porous electrode with a wide surface area that captures the oxygen from the air. The battery also contains a silver-based catalyst in its electrode that does not allow carbon dioxide to interact with it. This enables the electrode to remain non-permeated by the CO2. The battery is also created from an economical and ecological source. It was created at the Alcoa smelter in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, where the company draws significantly from a hydroelectric source.
Those who hope to own an electric car capable of traveling over 1,000 miles on one single charge should note that the battery does decay over time. As the battery drains, the metal converts into aluminum hydroxide. The company did state that it would be very simple to install an indicator in the electric car that could notify the driver when this process has started. When fully depleted, the battery can easily be recycled to create more aluminum batteries. The operator of the vehicle will have to swap out his battery every few months, which is hoped to be done at newly-installed battery swapping centers (an electric car’s version of a gas station) which swaps the battery out with the convenience of refilling a gas tank with more efficiency according to a demo from Tesla, which swapped out a battery in 90 seconds.
The electric car that traveled over 1,000 miles on one charge in Montreal, Canada, was outfitted with a combination of an aluminum-air battery system and a lithium-ion battery system. The objective for this was that the car would be able to travel short distances on the lithium-ion charge (urban or suburban driving), but for longer distances (highway driving), the aluminum-air battery would be utilized. Instead of gasoline, operators of an electric car with an aluminum air battery would need to feed the engine tap water to stimulate the chemical reaction.
Phinergy is also experimenting with other metal-air technologies. They are currently developing a zinc-air battery which can possibly be more durable than it aluminum counterpart.
By Andres Loubriel