Last year, Phinergy and Alcoa announced the development of an aluminum-air battery that could give an electric car a potential range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km), though stops for a water top-up would be needed every couple of hundred miles. Now the companies have debuted the technology on the track at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
With the exception of Tesla’s Model S and its 300 mile (500 km) range, most lithium-ion battery systems typically offer users a somewhat limited range before requiring a recharge. As we reported last April, there are several companies working on next generation air-battery technologies, most focusing on lithium-air solutions. However one of the inherent problems with these new metal-air batteries has been the issue of CO2-related premature failure.
Phinergy and Alcoa’s aluminum-air battery system uses energy released through the reaction of aluminum and water with oxygen in order to generate electricity, using a silver-based catalyst and unique structure to allow oxygen into the cell while refusing entry to the problematic CO2 molecules. The company claims that travel distances, purchase prices and life-cycle costs would be comparable to petrol-powered vehicles.
Because the battery plates are not rechargeable and need to be replaced, the system is being promoted as a supporting technology. During regular city driving, a lithium-ion system would manage most of the power needs, but during longer trips the aluminum-air battery would kick in as a range extender. The spent aluminum can also be recycled when depleted.
According to Phinergy, just one of the 50 aluminum plates in its aluminum-air battery can power a car for roughly 20 miles (32 km). When added to a lithium-ion configuration, the technology could extend an electric vehicle's range by approximately 1,000 miles. The development might also be used to further enhance range in future hybrid vehicles.
However, although the battery's aluminum plate anodes are claimed to have an energy density of 8 kWh/kg, there has been no mention of power or performance figures from the test vehicle.
The video below shows the Alcoa-Phinergy car with the aluminum-air battery out on the track.