New Aluminum-Air Car Battery Boasts 1,000 Mile Range

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Would you buy an electric car if it could drive nearly 1,200 miles before requiring a recharge? Two companies working on a revolutionary battery think they have the key to completely changing how drivers look at electric vehicles (EVs).

Electric cars are by no means new, but they've never been quite as popular as their gas-powered counterparts. Part of the problem with electronic cars is longevity; most require a recharge after only one hundred miles, which makes them less attractive to most North Americans.

One of the most popular electric cars on the market, the Nissan Leaf, can only drive approximately 80 miles before requiring a recharge. The much more expensive and luxurious Tesla Model S can go further -- approximately 230 miles, and up to 320 miles with an 85kW/h battery -- but that's still not far enough for many consumers.

New Aluminum-Air Battery Adds 1,200 Miles to EV Capacity

But Canadian firm Alcoa and Israeli company Phinergy think they've got a solution: a special, cutting-edge "aluminum-air" battery that can extend the range of an electric vehicle's lithium-ion battery by 1,000 miles. For most electric cars, that would give them the energy to travel nearly 1,200 miles before requiring a recharge. (Source: auto123.com)

The Alcoa-Phinergy battery is very unique. They're charged using Alcoa's smelter, which is located in Baie-Comeau, Quebec. Energy is released through a chemical reaction that resembles the process involved in turning iron into rust. It's a natural reaction that happens when aluminum is exposed to air.

Tap Water All That's Needed for a Recharge

It all sounds very complicated, and it is. But all drivers need to know is this: they refill the special aluminum battery with tap water once each month to keep the chemical reaction active.

It's also worth noting that the Alcoa-Phinergy battery can be saved for really long adventures, leaving everyday travel to the standard lithium-ion battery found in most electric vehicles. That means the Alcoa-Phinergy battery would only need to be changed out once a year or so.

It might be a while before we see this technology on the road, but Phinergy and Alcoa hope to accelerate the process by petitioning the Quebec government for financial support. The companies are keen on securing public funding that could be used to equip a small fleet of vehicles for long-distance testing of the aluminum-air battery. (Source: cbc.ca)

What's Your Opinion?

Have you considered buying an electric vehicle? Do you think the emergence of electric vehicles capable of driving 1,200 miles before a recharge would have a dramatic impact on the automotive industry? Or, do you think that the long-lived internal combustion engine is here to stay?

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Comments

DavidFB's picture

One issue has been range, which Tesla has partially addressed with more batteries (weight). But another barrier is cost. Electric cars tend to be more than gas cars. They also have much lower maintenance needs so they can make sense financially, but cost of financing can be a barrier. Tesla plans to bring in a cheaper model in the next round (relatively at least).

This suggests the cost is equivalent to current battery technology and will thus not address the cost factor significantly. Mass production may help but solar power has the same issue.

The other issue not touched on is battery lifespan. As replacing the batteries can be as expensive as a cheap car, it is a significant cost marker for such a car.

norascats's picture

I'm waiting for a solar charging car. Most cars spend 80% of the day outside in the sun. Failure to use that energy towards charging the battery is a continued tie to the increasingly less and less efficient electric grid.

gaelicfog's picture

There is a prototype out there right now that kind of looks like a 21th century version of the VW Bus. Its off road equipped and has a solar electric painted skin.

http://dornob.com/modern-hippie-bus-goes-where-vintage-volkswagens-cant/#axzz34DDXXkw7

shujin's picture

A very intriguing idea and probably most welcomed by the middle and lower classes.
Unfortunately, the price of such vehicles equipped with such a battery would have to be with their grasp. And then even if they are priced green friendly, how would they make it past the oil companies' lobbyists. Maybe in other countries where big business does not have a chokehold on the lawmakers.
I do wish them the best of luck, though.

gaelicfog's picture

Go out and price a Leaf, they are about $25,000 and I know Nissan is pushing really good leasing rates. Its a great city car or short range commuting, but needs more range in the country or for a vacation trips.

gaelicfog's picture

God if a Nissan Leaf could increase it's range of 80 miles to 320 miles, I'd buy one tomorrow. We're talking a Leaf, you can get a Leaf for about $25,000, but while a Leaf is a good commuter car/Train car, its not a distance car Most people need something beyond an EV taking them to and from work for a day or two. They need emergency mileage. I live about 200 miles from Boston, I'd have to stop and charge the battery twice to get to Boston a 3 1/2 hour drive is now a day plus trip up. Without a range of at least 200 I'd have to rent a car. I so want to go electric, so I'd easily take a 1/3 of a thousand for starters.

stekcapofni's picture

How much does it cost in "gasoline" to travel 1,000 miles?

Assume gas costs $3.50 per gallon and you vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon.

To travel 1,000 miles would cost 1,000 / 20 X $3.50 = $175.00.

As long as the Aluminum-Air battery cost less than $175.00 battery it could make economic sense to the consumer.

But, the consumer also keeps an eye on the convenience of being able to find gasoline practically anywhere along their journeys.

As owners of electric-hybrids get to the point where they have to pay to replace their rechargeable batteries they will be rethinking their choice of vehicle. Hopefully they were wise enough to save the money they were not having to spend on gasoline to pay for their replacement batteries.

Consumers (for the most part) are smart. They will vote with their pocketbooks.

But without experimentation there are no advancements in technology.