Automotive

Phinergy's metal-air battery could eliminate EV range anxiety

Phinergy's demonstration vehicle boasts a range of over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) using metal-air battery technology
Phinergy's demonstration vehicle boasts a range of over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) using metal-air battery technology
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Phinergy claims its air electrode lets oxygen through while blocking damaging CO2
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Phinergy claims its air electrode lets oxygen through while blocking damaging CO2
Phinergy's metal-air battery draws oxygen from the surrounding air
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Phinergy's metal-air battery draws oxygen from the surrounding air
Phinergy's demonstration vehicle boasts a range of over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) using metal-air battery technology
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Phinergy's demonstration vehicle boasts a range of over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) using metal-air battery technology

Israel-based company Phinergy claims to have developed metal-air battery technology that promises to end the range anxiety associated with electric vehicles. The company’s battery currently consists of 50 aluminum plates, each providing energy for around 20 miles (32 km) of driving. This adds up to a total potential range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km), with stops required only every couple of hundred miles to refill the system with water.

There are a number of companies and university research teams currently working on air-battery technology – usually lithium-air batteries – with the goal of improving the range of electric vehicles. These batteries offer significantly increased capacity in a more compact form factor by replacing bulky conventional cathodes, which contain the oxidizer within the battery itself, with lighter “air cathodes” that instead draw oxygen from the surrounding air.

Phinergy claims to have solved the CO2-related premature failure problems seen in other metal-air battery technologies by developing an air electrode with a silver-based catalyst and structure that lets oxygen enter the cell, but blocks out CO2. The result is an air electrode that Phinergy says has an operational lifespan of thousands of hours.

Phinergy's metal-air battery draws oxygen from the surrounding air
Phinergy's metal-air battery draws oxygen from the surrounding air

The company says the aluminum plate anodes in its aluminum-air battery have an energy density of 8 kWh/kg, but the batteries are not rechargeable. Once the energy is expended, the plates, which add up to around 55 pounds (25 kg) per battery, need to be replaced. However, the company points out that aluminum is easily recyclable and that swapping the battery out for a fresh one is quicker than recharging.

Because they aren’t rechargeable, Phinergy says its aluminum-air batteries would be more suitable as a range-extender technology working in conjunction with a traditional lithium-ion battery. The lithium-ion battery would would handle the general day-to-day commuting energy needs with the aluminum-air battery providing extra range when required. It is this dual setup that the company has used in a demonstration vehicle that can be driven over 200 miles (330 km) in a single continuous trip as shown in the video below.

However, Phinergy is also developing a rechargeable zinc-air battery that it claims is resistant to the dendrite formation that has plagued other zinc-air batteries.

The company believes its metal-air battery technology could be commercially available in vehicles as soon as 2017, with smart grid energy storage, consumer electronic devices, UAVs and boats cited as other potential applications for the technology.

Phinergy’s demonstration electric vehicle and the aluminum-air battery technology that powers it can be seen in the video below.

Source: Phinergy via Bloomberg TV

Phinergy drives car by metal, air, and water

28 comments
bannor99
That's not a battery, it's a fuel cell. As demonstrated, it doesn't seem to last too long and recycling the alumina that's created will require lots of electricity. So as a large-scale solution, this may not be practical without further breakthroughs.
BigGoofyGuy
I think this technology has a lot of promise and could - potentially - give electric vehicles a big boost when it comes to range. It would be nice to see it used sooner than 2017.
Joris van den Heuvel
I understand this is a concept, but it's essentially a car that runs on aluminium, which takes incredible amounts of energy to refine from its ore, and requiring an additional industrial process to recycle it after it's spent. Most likely taxing the environment even more than gasoline.
Bruce Miller
Works for me! Little wasted energy, recyclable aluminium, just add electricity, makes longer distances possible, now for a three moving piece or at worst CV transmission, always following the SMART and KISS rules, Less is more engineering, and the ultimate in energy storage, aluminium pallets can be exploited. Fantastic for military situations, perhaps good for light planes too? Medium sized trucks? Abundance of Aluminium expected from China's new found Pebble Bed Gas and Thorium LFTR styled reactors, will drop Al prices world wide - even allowing this form of energy storage to compete with dirty, flammable and polluting Oil and coal - after all not even CO2 produced to store electricity in Aluminium and it is a very common ore, not rare by any means? large northern Hydro could be commissioned to produce Aluminium, reducing transmission losses? Definitely part of the solution.
Slowburn
"Range anxiety" because saying electric cars are catastrophically short ranged is bad press.
Mr E
I have heard of this technology before. From what I remember of previous articles, the energy required to "recycle" the used up aluminum which I presume is basically bauxite is about the same as the energy you get back out of the fuel cell as electric power. I'm not sure what the overall efficiency would be but charging any battery is not 100% efficient. I hope they get the details worked out because this would be a lot safer and compact than hydrogen fuel cells. However, as Rudolf Diesel once said "The birth of an idea is that happy moment when all things seem possible and reality has not yet entered the picture".
33Nick
Hum, I spoke to the IBM lithium-air team last year around the same time and theirs was also ready, the only problem was de-humidification system that was bullet proof enough to be driven anywhere. They estimated they were about 7 years away from mass production.
William H Lanteigne
So the "battery" has to be replaced every 1,000 miles or so. If it's cheaper than buying 30 gallons of gasoline, it will work. If it's significantly more, it won't be economic, and will be cheaper to keep my Buick.
George Heuston
Since ambient air is being used in these systems, will they, like the internal combustion engines, suffer performance deficits at altitude?
billybob1851
anything that is a step in the right direction...i like it... building blocks.