Aluminum battery - a great addition to an electric car

    Phinergy was the first company in the world to produce an air-aluminum battery suitable for use in an automobile. The 100-pound Al-Air battery contains enough energy to provide 3,000 km of travel for a compact passenger car. Phinergy conducted a technology demonstration with the Citroen C1 and a simplified version of the battery (50 plates of 500 g each, in a case filled with water). The car drove 1800 km on a single charge, stopping only to replenish water supplies - consumed electrolyte ( video ).

    Aluminum does not replace lithium-ion batteries (it does not charge from an outlet), but it perfectly complements them. Indeed, 95% of trips are made by the car over short distances, where standard batteries are sufficient. An additional battery provides backup in case the battery is exhausted or if you need to travel far.

    The air-aluminum battery generates current due to the chemical reaction of the metal with oxygen from the surrounding air. Aluminum plate - anode. On both sides, the cell is coated with a porous material with a silver catalyst that filters CO 2 . Metallic elements slowly degrade to Al (OH) 3 .

    The chemical formula of the reaction is as follows:

    4 Al + 3 O 2 + 6 H 2 O = 4 Al (OH)3 + 2.71 V

    This is not some sensational novelty, but a well-known technology. It has long been used by the military, since such elements provide an exceptionally high energy density. But before, engineers could not solve the problem with CO 2 filtration and concomitant carbonization. Phinergy claims to have solved the problem and already in 2017 it is possible to produce aluminum batteries for electric vehicles (and not only for them).

    Tesla Model S lithium-ion batteries weigh about 1000 kg and provide mileage of 500 km (under ideal conditions, in reality 180-480 km). Say, if you reduce them to 900 kg and add an aluminum battery, then the mass of the machine will not change. The range of travel from the battery will decrease by 10-20%, but the maximum mileage without charging will increase right up to 3180-3480 km! You can get from Moscow to Paris, and something else remains.

    In some ways, this is similar to the concept of a hybrid car, but it does not require an expensive and bulky internal combustion engine.

    The lack of technology is obvious - the air-aluminum battery will have to be changed at a service center. Probably once a year or more often. However, this is quite an ordinary procedure. Tesla Motors last year showed how Model S batteries change in 90 seconds ( amateur video ).

    Other disadvantages are the energy cost of production and, possibly, the high price. The manufacture and recycling of aluminum batteries requires a lot of energy. That is, from an environmental point of view, their use only increases the total electricity consumption in the entire economy. But then consumption is more optimally distributed - it leaves large cities to remote areas with cheap energy, there are hydroelectric power stations and metallurgical plants.

    It is also unknown how much such batteries will cost. Although aluminum itself is a cheap metal, the cathode contains expensive silver. Phinergy does not explain how the patented catalyst is made. Perhaps this is a complicated process technology.

    But with all its shortcomings, the air-aluminum battery still seems to be a very convenient addition to the electric car. At least, as a temporary solution for the coming years (decades?), Until the problem of battery capacity disappears.

    Phinergy, meanwhile, is experimenting with a “rechargeable” zinc air battery . It generally works for thousands of hours without much chemical degradation, since zinc oxidation is a reversible process.

    Similar research is underway in Russia .

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