People who own cars want to at least have the option of taking an extended road trip, which has been a major barrier to the success of electric vehicles to date. Limited driving range and long battery charging times are two challenges that EV industry leaders have been working furiously to overcome, and a company from Israel believes they have devised an acceptable solution.
Phinergy’s air batteries made up of 50 aluminum plates can give EVs a range of up to 1,000 miles, according to Gizmag, with each plate providing enough energy for 20 miles. Weighing a total of 55 pounds, this fuel cell could be used in tandem with existing lithium-ion batteries, according to the developers, but the technology is far from ideal.
Gizmag notes that several companies have been trying to come up with mostly lithium-air batteries that have a longer range, in order to make electric vehicles more attractive to a wider audience.
“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,” writes Darren Quick.
But Phinergy has taken a different approach “with 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.”
Problem is, once the 1,000 miles of energy has been exhausted, the battery can’t be recharged. It’s a disposable solution, though Phinergy does not that aluminum is easily recyclable.
Critics responded to Gizmag’s post rightly question whether the energy required to process the aluminum outweighs the benefits of having a renewably-charged electric vehicle in the first place.
But the Israeli startup suggests that their technology, which could be commercially available by 2017, is best marketed as a backup for conventional, rechargeable lithium batteries.
Regular EV batteries can be used for day-to-day short distance travel, while Phinergy’s aluminum air battery would be used for extended trips.
While not entirely ideal, since we really do need to move away from our disposable culture, certainly this is a crucial step in the right direction. Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, city officials are testing an EV rental program specifically designed for short range travel.
Such a program could help reduce emissions and congestion.