Despite all the amazing technological breakthroughs we’ve made, building better batteries remains the most serious challenge. No one can deny that fossil fuels are horrible for the environment (except their producers), but building an electric vehicle to replace gas guzzling spewers of death has been confined to the pages of science fiction by our supposed inability to create a battery that will allow us to break those nasty speed limits and give us a far greater range than our butts are willing to bear.
But that’s about to radically change. Enter Phinergy, a leading developer of breakthrough zero-emission, high energy-density systems based on metal-air energy technologies. The company’s primary focus is on aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries. Unlike conventional batteries that use stored oxygen, metal-air batteries freely breathe oxygen from the ambient air, then release the energy that is contained in metals. You’re probably thinking that the price will probably make commercial use improbable, but you’d be wrong. These batteries are competitively priced.
How much difference do they make? Well, Phinergy’s aluminum-Air battery system has been successfully integrated into an electric vehicle and it extended the driving range threefold. But, the technology isn’t just limited to vehicles, it also provides energy solutions to power a wide range of applications including stationary energy storage, hydrogen production, aerospace and defense, consumer electronics and chlorine production.
The short distance an electric car can go before needing a recharge has often been cited as the main reason the electric car market is still relatively small. The regular battery range of electric cars now on the market is a few hundred kilometers at most — with the Nissan Leaf at the lower end of about 135 kilometers and the Tesla Model S at the high end puttering out at around 480. Their limited range makes the cars unsuitable for extended road trips because fast-charging stations are still relatively uncommon along the way.
“We hope that this will increase the penetration of electric cars with zero emissions,” said Aziz Tzidon, CEO of Phinergy, in an interview with CBC Montreal’s Homerun, adding that it should put an end to ‘range anxiety’. “When you’re buying a car, you want to buy freedom. When you have a car which is limited in range and you need to have infrastructure to [fast-charge it], you are losing this freedom.” Tzidon claims the new battery technology can store enough energy to take a car 3,000 kilometers using only 100 kilograms of aluminum-air batteries. In comparison, the Tesla Model S battery has a 480 kilometer range and is estimated to weigh more than 500 kilograms.
Tzidon said Israel-based Phinergy, Alcoa and the Quebec government are currently in talks about a possible demonstration project involving a small fleet of vehicles using the technology.