Mar 25, 2013 02:00 PM ET
It's the sweetest dream of every electric-car fan: a battery that could store enough energy to offer up to 1,000 miles of real-world range. While it's not going to arrive in showrooms any time soon, Israeli startup Phinergy thinks its aluminum-air energy storage device might just be that battery. Moreover, say CEO Aviv Tzidon, the company has signed a contract with a global automaker to deliver production volumes of the device starting in 2017. Which isn't really all that far away in car time, since we're already seeing 2014 model-year cars on the road.
The Bloomberg clip above, posted last Thursday, comes from reporter Elliott Gotkine driving a Citroen C1 minicar that's been modified to run as an electric car, with a Phinergy cell array mounted in the load bay. The car's lithium-ion battery provides less than 100 miles of range, but the Phinergy aluminum-air cells acts as a range extender to provide up to an additional 1,000 miles.
The highlight of the video is a technician filling the test car with distilled water, while the projected range is shown rising on a display on the CEO's mobile phone. The water serves as a base for the electrolyte through which ions pass to give off the energy that powers the test vehicle's electric motor. In the test car, the water must be refilled "every few hundred kilometers"--perhaps every 200 miles.
Very simply, an aluminum-air battery uses an aluminum plate as the anode, and ambient air as the cathode, with the aluminum slowly being sacrificed as its molecules combine with oxygen to give off energy. The basic chemical equation is four aluminum atoms, three oxygen molecules, and six water molecules combining to produce four molecules of hydrated aluminum oxide plus energy.
Historically, aluminum-air batteries have been confined to military applications because of the need to remove the aluminum oxide and replace the aluminum anode plates. Phinergy says its patented cathode material allows oxygen fr
Project, great post! I watched the Bloomberg video with Elliott Gotkine driving, very impressive. The consumable fuel, water, is presently a 200 mile constraint but who knows. Thank you very much for the technology update. Another tech update:
GRAPHENE is a ‘single-atom-thick’ material composed entirely of carbon. The atoms form a tessellated pattern (lattice) of hexagon shapes. The chemical structure of graphene is highly stable, resulting in “the thinnest and strongest substance known to science—about 100 times stronger than steel by weight,” Whoa that's 100X stronger than steel, according to the U.K.’s Independent.
The material is sometimes called “two dimensional”: although in reality it does exist in three dimensions (its thickness, although tiny, is still greater than zero), it is so thin (one atom) that it behaves in many ways like a two-dimensional substance.
The number of patents on uses of the material now exceeds 7,000, “with the largest number—more than 2,000—held by China.
Unexpectedly Amazing Carbon-Based Energy Form: Maher El-Kady, a graduate student in chemist Richard Kaner’s lab at UCLA, wondered what would happen if he placed a sheet of graphite oxide—an abundant carbon compound—under a laser. And not just any laser, but a really ‘inexpensive one,’ something that millions of people around the world already have—a DVD burner containing a technology called LightScribe, which is used for etching labels and designs on mixtapes. As El-Kady, Kamer, and colleagues described in a paper published last year in Science, the result produced very high-quality sheets of Graphene, very quickly, and at low cost.
The technique “makes the most efficient carbon-based supercapacitors that have been made to date.” Energy futurists see great potential for such cheap, easy-to-produce, energy-dense supercapacitors. In many applications, these devices could either replace or work alongside batteries to make for more energy-efficient devices.
ExtremeTech, by James Plafke on April 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm: Graphene-based nanosheets give lithium-ion batteries more energy storage: Modern lives are ruled by mobile devices, from smartphones and tablets, to portable gaming systems and e-readers. Considering these devices need some kind of power source, this means that batteries are what actually have dominion over our daily activities. Battery tech hasn’t improved at the rate of the hardware it powers, but the industry has been taking baby steps. Now, Chinese scientists have taken a new baby step that could help batteries store more power.
The two main areas of battery technology that need improvement are how quickly they can deliver an amount of power to a device, and how much energy it can store. In the lithium-ion consumer market, a larger battery usually means more space in which to store energy, but lithium-ion falls prey to a low theoretical capacity compared to newer, less explored battery tech. In order to increase the capacity of a lithium-ion battery without drastically increasing the battery’s physical size, nanostructured electrodes can hold more lithium ions, and thus provide more capacity for energy storage. However, these flimsier electrodes become damaged due to pulverization, which refers to the swelling from a battery’s charge-discharge cycles. If the electrodes were able to survive the damage, then the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery could increase. Using everyone’s favorite wonder material, graphene, a team from the University of Science and Technology in China have managed to prevent the issue of pulverization.
So far, supercapacitors have replaced batteries in such applications as backup for electrics and electronics, from CMOS circuits to wind turbine blade control, opening bus doors in an emergency and making brakes work when regenerative braking fails.
Supercapacitors are taking a tiny market share from lithium-ion ion batteries, partly by being placed across them so less battery is needed and that battery lasts longer as in the Bolloré Bluecar, the Mazda pure electric sports car and many pure electric buses in China. Supercapacitors do continue to be improved faster than lithium-ion batteries where toxic flammable electrolytes can remain and may fuel fires, ref. Boeing.
Re Graphene and Micro Supercapacitors: Imagine plugging in your smartphone for thirty seconds and then continuing the rest of your day with a fully charged phone. Then imagine plugging in your electric vehicle for less time than it takes to fill up a standard gas tank before running a day’s worth of errands on that one charge.
The magic is in the idea of a supercapacitor. Typical batteries store a lot of energy, but it takes a long time for that energy to collect. Capacitors charge quickly, but they don’t hold the charge very long. Supercapacitors take the best of both these technologies to create a device that charges quickly and will hold a large amount of energy for a long time. Micro supercapacitors bring this technology down to a scale appropriate for cell phones and laptops.