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Batteries Aluminum-Air Battery Can Power EVs For 1,000 Miles!

Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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Aluminum-Air Battery Can Power EVs For 1,000 Miles!



I don’t want to get your hopes up too much, but… Citroen has tested an aluminium-air battery in an electric car and the claims are that it can travel 1,000 miles with this innovation!

This is not a range of 1,000 miles per charge, but this is a type of extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) technology.

The car has lithium-ion batteries that enable it to travel 100 miles per charge, and if the driver needs to make rare trips that are longer than 100 miles, she or he can use the aluminium-air batteries to travel an additional 1,000 miles or so.

The aluminium-air batteries (from Phinergy) are not rechargeable in the conventional sense, however. They have to be refilled with distilled water every 200 miles.

The aluminium-air batteries are strictly for backup. If you want to make long trips often, these batteries should not be used. They just prevent stranding, and facilitate occasional long trips. This is because these batteries’ aluminium electrodes are depleted with use. They have to be replaced more often than conventional EV batteries.

The aluminium-air batteries have an energy density 100 times greater than that of today’s lithium-ion batteries, and they are also lighter than backup gasoline-fueled generators.

The aluminium-air battery bank (pack) weighs only 55 pounds. Each of the aluminium plates in this battery pack can power the car for 20 miles, and the test car has 50 of those plates (50 plates x 20 miles = 1,000 miles).

From an environmental standpoint, there is the possibility that the environmental impact of mining the aluminium to replace these non-rechargeable batteries might outweigh the benefits of it. I’m not aware if that has yet been studied, but I know that the process of mining and preparing alumina (this is what aluminium comes from) is very energy intensive.

Rechargeable aluminium-air batteries would be amazing, though, wouldn’t they?

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



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  • http://twitter.com/Mwindtalker Mike beadow

    This technology may serve the short term problem of energy storage but the long term solution is here… http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/december7/nanotubes-ink-paper-120709.html … Once paper battery technology comes down in price we will see the long term solution to our energy needs that fit into the ecology of our planet by being completely recyclable and the original materials probably be sustainably made.

  • Liam May

    How are they gaining the improvement in energy density? I have yet to read up on aluminium-air batteries…

  • Aaron Russell

    Not good enough. Carry on perfecting the primary battery source.

    • Liam May

      Agreed. If the recharging procedures of the aluminum-air pack are too laborious, this would have negative impacts on the adoption of the technology.

  • http://twitter.com/JackTSunn Trevor Jackson

    • Otis11

      Incredibly long video… but interesting. Skip the first 8 minutes if you don’t care about introductions.

  • Boo-Boo

    Aluminum is highly recyclable and the energy SAVINGS FROM RECYCLING it are above 90%.
    Maybe they can use RECYCLED aluminum from the BILLIONS of containers produced every year for anything from soda and beer, to pies, pesticides, foil and siding.

    • http://twitter.com/purr10 Purr10

      The price of aluminum will increase, however, assuming recycled aluminum could be used, it would help to keep costs down.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jouni-Valkonen/736198505 Jouni Valkonen

        The price of aluminum can only increase if electricity price is going up. This is however very unlikely, because solar and wind power is getting cheaper and cheaper. And aluminum production capacity can be scaled on the supply of renewable energy.

    • Hans

      The recycling rate of aluminium is already very high (around 90% I heared recently in a documentary). This means that extra demand for aluminium cannot be covered by extra recycling, and thus extra demand means new aluminium ore has to be mined.

      • Liam May

        The mining of coal, steel, gold, uranium and other minerals commences on a massive scale globally every year. You also have to consider the emissions generated from those sources, and the end use of the minerals that are then being used… It depends on how you see the end use of the mineral.

  • arne-nl

    “From an environmental standpoint, there is the possibility that the
    environmental impact of mining the aluminium to replace these
    non-rechargeable batteries might outweigh the benefits of it. I’m not
    aware if that has yet been studied, but I know that the process of
    mining and preparing alumina (this is what aluminium comes from) is very
    energy intensive.”

    Nicholas, you should look at the stuff you’re blogging about. In the 2nd video, at 3:35, it is shown that the aluminium from depleted batteries can be recycled. It is not like coal or oil that you can burn only once.

    This kind of battery would be excellent as a drop-in range extender. Only rent or buy one when you need it. When you keep the weight below 20 kg and standardize the format, they can be rented/sold at petrol stations or supermarkets. Your EV will have unlimited range.

    • Boo-Boo

      Rental and sale at gas stations (petrol to some :-) is a GREAT IDEA!… You’d stop in on your way out of town (just like filling up) and get a battery pack to last you the entire trip (or longer).

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      But as Hans notes above: “The recycling rate of aluminium is already very high (around 90% I heared recently in a documentary). This means that extra demand for aluminium cannot be covered by extra recycling, and thus extra demand means new aluminium ore has to be mined.”

  • http://twitter.com/JackTSunn Trevor Jackson

    Phinergy
    is doing the right thing. Aluminium air batteries are the next power source for
    EVs (http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=14442338).
    This is known by only a few other companies worldwide and investors are rapidly
    moving into this sector (http://investing.businessweek.com/research/markets/news/article.asp?docKey=600-201303201231M2______EUPR_____0a7a000000c5f4d8_3600-1)
    but only one has cracked the chemistry to allow ordinary aluminium to be used
    in an affordable, safe EV (http://www.metalectrique.co.uk/about-us). This has been around for a number of years
    but lobbying has prevented it from gaining government support in Europe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IEmrQzch2E).
    The announcements from Phinergy and Metalectrique this week are a sign that we’re
    finally moving into an electric future on the road.

  • http://twitter.com/usefulDesign Useful Design

    It’s not clear from the story and the first video if the Aluminium cells are single charge only or rechargeable but not as many recharges in battery life cycle as a Lithium Ion battery. The story suggests the later, some how rechargeable but it doesn’t anywhere say HOW one can recharge the Aluminium Ion and it also suggest you wouldn’t want to recharge them often. Then again the mention of Zinc Air battery suggest the Aluminium battery is a oncer that you’d have to trade in on a replacement once consumed.

    More questions that answers (so poor marks for the author!) but very intriguing and further proof that EV is likely to beat out H2, fuel cells, algae-to-alcohol and compressed air for the 100% renewable personal vehicle market. (bio-fuels will never be sufficient even if destroying food production so I didn’t include in the list)

    • Liam May

      The other energy sources that you mention, for potential use in transportation applications, are not on the same level in terms of range as electric vehicles are currently offering, (I could be wrong here).

      I think the article mentions distilled water being used to recharge the battery, for as long a period of time before the electrodes themselves need to be replaced.

      • http://twitter.com/usefulDesign Useful Design

        The distilled water I read as being not so much a recharge as an operational necessity to get full range from the battery. You can’t keep topping up with distilled water to recharge the battery (hat tip to 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). Three H2O top-ups and your done IIRC!

  • george polowick

    This would seem to be fantastic. China already has 10 to 15 kilogram removable battery packs on every one of the 20 million ebikes in China. This is for recharging in the home or on the ebike. If the aluminum air packs were made small like this of 10 to 15 kilograms then they could be swapped in and out of a car or truck very easily, as even women could easily remove them. Then ebikes could be taken on long trips and the batteyr packs swapped out of the car or truck and put into the ebike for trail travel for long distances.

  • Anonymous

    Phinergy already has a rechargable metal-air technology: Zinc-Air. Perhaps you missed in on the website you linked to?

  • Cynthia Mcardle

    Wow! This new invention is really amazing and
    incredible! Is this safe to the
    environment? Thanks for sharing!

    -BatteryWarehouseDirect.com

  • Craig Allen

    This could work if 1) the aluminium could be economically produced using renewable energy, and 2) the battery could be configured as a swappable cartridge that could be recycled after use.

    55 pounds = 25 kilograms = 1000 km, which is too heavy be be easily swappable Make it a 5kg(200km) cartridge and it would be a convenient backup, or perhaps even main battery. You could even have a set of cartridge slots to allow extended range. I don’t drive my car often, but several times a year head of on long trips to the Australian bush or outback. This would be perfect for that, even if the cost was significantly higher than the normal EV running cost.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Now this is a nifty idea, using an aluminium battery as a range extender. This gets around the difficulty of recharging aluminium-air batteries at home while giving electric cars a greater range then internal combustion engine cars. While it takes a great deal of energy to refine aluminium, that’s sort of the point as there is a lot of potential energy in a kilogram of aluminium and the aluminium oxide that’s left in a depleted battery can be reused. The battery will get heavier as its charge is depleted, but that’s not a serious problem.

  • Otis11

    That looks pretty great! 100 Miles is plenty for almost everyone, and the few trips people do that are longer, still work!

    I don’t think this will be a final solution, but I do see this working for the next 5-20 years until we have better quick-charge technology. If they can do a reliability study on this, or offer a 8+ year warranty I know many people who would be interested.

    Only question – cost. That’s what it all comes down to.

    • Boo-Boo

      Cost would definitely be LOWER — likely MUCH lower — than lithium-ion batteries:
      – aluminum is much CHEAPER than lithium & more readily available
      – the weight of materials is about 90% less for aluminum batteries
      – reducing 200-400 lbs of weight per vehicle increases fuel efficiency by 10-20%, further reducing operating costs, road maintenance costs, reliance on fossil fuels AND pollution.

      • Boo-Boo

        If ALL vehicles were equipped with aluminum air batteries the WEIGHT savings alone would be like retiring the ENTIRE FLEET of long-haul 18-wheel trucks (1 MILLION vehicles!), reducing the road maintenance & repairs costs by $10 to 20 BILLION a year.

        • Otis11

          Sure, it has a cheaper initial cost than Li-ion batteries, but it cannot be recharged, so you have to make that initial purchase time and again. There’s no way this is less expensive than Li-ion for daily commutes, but for this backup it might be more cost effective.

          Also, it’s likely more cost effective than a gas-generator like the Chevy volt as you don’t have to buy an Engine/Transmission… and gasoline is fairly expensive.

          • Liam May

            It think they mention it being recharged by adding distilled water occasionally, and also replacing the electrodes every once in a while… 1000 miles of range is incredible.

          • Otis11

            Well, the “recharging” by adding water is required to get that 1000 miles of range. The 1000 miles is the distance for the electrodes being replaced.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I ran across one article that predicts cost for an aluminum battery…

        “When the batteries are spent, they are removed and replaced, with the idea that drivers will eventually be able to swap them at depots or services stations at a cost of around £27, working out at around 13p per mile travelled.”

        http://www.off-grid.net/2013/04/04/electric-car-battery-that-charges-off-grid/

        That is not cheap. 20 cents per mile. A 50 mpg ICEV using $4/gallon gas would cost 8 cents for fuel.

        Where they might work as range extenders. If we found ourselves stuck with 100 mile EVs it might be feasible to rent an aluminum battery for long trips. That might work out cheaper than buying a PHEV in order to drive long distances if one doesn’t take a lot of long trips.

  • JustSaying

    No cost so hard to say, but I thought the idea here was to use it to replace the gas back up motor. When you by a PEV with a range of 50-100 miles it covers 99% of your driving needs. And you can recharge for longer drives with planning. BUT you are scared of running out of charge, so today you put a gas motor(heavy) in the car and add gas (8lbs a gallon). All the weight reduces your range, plus the motor and extra gears to mesh it with the drive train cost lots of money. So using the alum-air as back up power so you don’t run out of fuel. It is much lighter and should be cheaper that the gas motor/transmission. And don’t have to worry about the gas going stale.

    • Andrew me

      You just made me think how easy it would be to have a battery only ev and then have a small electric gas generator that you could simply plug into the boot and use that for long drives, i have heard over and over again that most people travel less than 100 miles a day and of those 80% or less travel less than 35 miles a day so you don’t really need to carry around a heavy generator until you need it, .

      • Liam May

        Check my comment above.
        You can hypothetically maximize your utility by focusing on the electric energy supplied from one battery pack. In the same sense that Elon referred to a vehicle as not being too ‘amphibious’, (unsure of exact ref.), this allows the capitalization on one particular strength of the vehicle alone. This should have added benefits, via avoiding the additional weight of a separate electricity generator stationed in the trunk, as you mention.

    • Liam May

      Why would you rely entirely on gas? Why would you even need to rely on some form of backup to the original electric drive train? If a suitable size of recharging infrastructure was available to the driver and considering that they had planned properly for their journeys, it would be reasonable to assume that they could adequately reach their destinations. You must also consider the added benefit mobile fast-charging units supplied by conventional motor support companies, (like the AAA), mentioned at: http://ow.ly/jBk4H

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jouni-Valkonen/736198505 Jouni Valkonen

    aluminum can easily be refined using mostly solar and wind energy, because the production can be scaled on the availability of renewables. When there is no wind and sun is covered with clouds (rare combination!), production of aluminum factory can be scaled down to 10 %. Thus from environmental stand point, we definitely need a aluminum based economy, because aluminum production does not require coal like steel production and the production of aluminum makes electricity demand adjustable.

    However, this innovation does not sound very practical, if aluminum-air batteries are not cheap enough to be replaced. This replacement might be plausible, because aluminum batteries are very well recyclable.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      interesting, thanks for the comment.

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