Alcoa Teams With Phinergy to Develop Claimed 1,000-Mile Aluminum Air Battery Technology (w/video)

FEB 9 2014 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 36

Is a 1,000-mile EV battery even possible?  Well, Israeli-based Phinergy claims it certainly is.  Here’s a look at the claims presented:

  • Aluminum-air battery
  • Capable of powering an electric vehicle for up to 1,000 miles
  • Energy density that begins to rival gasoline and diesel
  • Production volumes starting in 2017
  • Signed contract with global automaker
  • Phinergy’s prototype Al-air battery has been tested and proven to work
Phinergy's Aluminum Air Battery

Phinergy’s Aluminum Air Battery.  According to Phinergy, each of the 50 aluminum plates in this battery provides 20 miles of range.  Total range is approximately 1,000 miles.

Okay, all sounds well, but aluminum-air technology is doubtful for several reasons.  First, carbon dioxide released within the battery corrodes aluminum. Second, the battery must be refilled with water once every 200 or so miles.  Third, the battery consumes the aluminum plates over time.  These plates must be replaced every 1,000 miles or so.

See Also – Fisker Patents Solid-State Battery Tech, Commercialization By 2023

So those are the hurdles, but for Phinergy, the recent signing of a deal with Alcoa could be HUGE.

Phinergy Aluminum Air Demo Vehicle

Phinergy Aluminum Air Demo Vehicle

US-based Alcoa is the world’s third largest producer of aluminum.  So, signing a deal with such a monstrous company seems to imply that a workable, commercial product is coming.

As Green Car Congress reports:

“Alcoa and Israel-based Phinergy have entered into a joint development agreement to develop further Phinergy’s aluminum-air batteries. Announced at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Atlanta, the partnership will collaborate on new materials, processes and components to commercialize the aluminum-air battery, which could significantly extend electric vehicle range.”

“Aluminium–air cells are high-energy density primary (non-rechargeable) batteries originally developed in the 1960s. Aluminum-air batteries (a type of metal-air cell) use a catalytic air cathode in combination with an electrolyte and an aluminum anode; the systems offer a theoretical specific energy of 8.1 kWh/kg of Al—second only to the Li-air battery (13.0 kWh/kg).”

Dr. Raymond Kilmer, Alcoa’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, commented:

“Alcoa’s extensive technical materials expertise, along with our deep roots in bringing new products to market in the automotive industry, were of great interest to Phinergy as its revolutionary aluminum-air battery moves from research to commercialization. Automotive manufacturers are looking for technologies that enable zero-emission cars to travel the same kinds of distances as gasoline-powered cars. The aluminum-air range extender has the potential to meet that challenge.”

Aluminum air batteries could become the range-extender of the future and there’s even been hints that Tesla is exploring aluminum air for use in that range-extending application.  If this tech can be commercialized, then the EV world as we know it will forever change.

Source: Green Car Congress

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36 Comments on "Alcoa Teams With Phinergy to Develop Claimed 1,000-Mile Aluminum Air Battery Technology (w/video)"

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I agree that as primary battery, this technology is not very compelling. But it is conceptually more akin to a fuel cell, and used as range extender, it becomes much more interesting.

It cold work as a one use battery – like alkaline battery. It would need to be changed and send to recycling every time it is depleted. This would be a great business model for Alcoa. But it is doubtful that cost of the battery could be sufficiently low to make it economically viable.

The military need this type of battery for long range Drone aircraft and missles, etc.

Indeed. If you had an EV with a good 70 miles or so of range from a rechargeable battery, and you only had to dip into this battery on occasion, that could be acceptable. It would greatly depend on how heavy it is, how much it costs, and how easy it is to rebuild/replace. Otherwise the gasoline range extender option may still be superior.

Yes as a range extender the options are all still on the table. Air battery, flow cell, gas, diesel, CNG, hydrogen, and even portable extenders (of your favorite flavor). For an on-board extender, I agree with David that size/weight/cost/range all are factors.

I thought Tesla had a patent on this if it is used as a range extender. I think IEV’s wrote an article on it.

Interesting technology.

200 miles of range using just water in the small battery pack.

But is it ‘renewable’?

Our limited supply of water is necessary for life. Nothing lives if we start to expend water for transportation at a high rate, with cars adding to the strained water supply in many cities, especially in CA in the west, where there is already annual water rationing all over the midwest.

It still seems our best option is the never ending abundant energy supply of the sun. Improving on out collection and storage of sun’s energy. It’s the only abundant energy resource where it’s use does not deplete another necessary for life. Along with zero emissions.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Desalinating water with waste LFTR heat would cure all freshwater concerns in the world.

‘According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Water use ranges between 65 and 90 gallons per barrel of crude oil processed and wastewater discharge ranges between 20 and 40 gallons, leaving 45 to 50 gallons of water consumed per barrel, or 2 to 2.5 gallons of water per gallon of gasoline.” Thus, using NREL’s conservative estimate, the current per-gallon water requirement for gasoline is similar to that of ethanol. But the aggregate quantity of water required to produce the gasoline consumed in the United States is nearly 1 billion gallons per day.’

http://www.ethanolrfa.org/pages/policy-positions-ethanol-and-water

Another great reason to reduce gas consumption – holy crap!

What a staggering glutton of resources…oil has got to go…

On the flip side, it is a testament to the energy density of gasoline that you can waste so much water and electricity and everything else to make it, and it is still a commercially viable product.

You could recycle it renewably. That would cost more than the $50, but perhaps you could do an exchange for $100, at a place that used renewable energy to recycle the aluminum.

Why anyone would want to develop this far use I can’t understand.
What is the advantage of using this as a range extender when we already have the technology to put in a hydrogen fuel cell to do the same job?

Hydrogen can also be produced if required on site, and there is no need to get aluminium out of the car or return it to the factory for recycling.

It’s all about the price. Hydrogen Hundai is about $100 000. And Hidrogen filling station are about 2-4 milions.

Cost. fuel cells, hydrogen tanks, and hydrogen stations cost money. Many don’t believe they will scale, since if a big battery breakthrough happens, fc cars won’t be needed and those stations will just need to close. This on the other hand is rapidly scalable, and if batteries get better, well people still would like a one use fuel source for long trips.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Call it $2/kg and 8kWh/kg. that makes it about $0.25/kWh, which gets you say $0.06-0.10 per mile. Not great, but if you’re concerned with CO2 or energy security, not that bad.

OMG, one of their chief engineers Joel Lang was a buddy of mine in the Israeli military some 27 years ago…

Other than that: hmmm, let me see…

– Israeli start-up? check.
– Spearheaded by guys from software and telecom, with relevant-tech experts at 2nd tier? check.
– Outlandish claims about EVs? check.
– Managed to land some big ‘Blue Chip’ money and partnerships? check.

Gee… I wonder where I’ve encountered this before…

Everybody is harping on hydrogen fuel cell tech because of how inefficient it is to make hydrogen. I haven’t heard anybody say the same things about this aluminum battery yet. So here I go.
The website is one of the places where they put the energy required to make materials in an easy to read format.

http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/what-is-the-embodied-energy-of-materials.html

According to them: energy/kg Al
Virgin Aluminum = 63 -95 kWh of energy
20% recycled = 60.8 kWh
100% recycled = 3.15 – 4.75 kWh

If this battery only gets 8.1 kWh/kg of energy then that is really bad efficiency.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

End user price is all that matters: relative efficiency is priced in.

So if hydrogen and the fuel cell were cheap then you would accept it.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Indeed, especially if they were domestically produced.

If locally- or onboard-reformulated gasoline or natgas -> H2 could provide ~16kWh worth of electricity to an electric drivetrain whose fuel cell costs say 5-10 cents per Watt, that would be a huge win any way you slice it. I don’t think that’s currently the case, alas.

You get a point there. If indeed it takes ten times more energy to produce a kilogram of Aluminum compaired to what you get from it in a battery, indeed that is not interesting anymore.
A better option as a range extender would be a direct ethanol fuel cell or a direct free piston generator.

Al-air is low cost and low density, but short life and inefficient (althougn it does generate heat…)
So its obvious place is as a range extender that’s infrequently used, such as in a mid-range BEV. Due to its low power density, it has to have a high capacity, but given a use-and-recycle model that’s not so bad.

By your figures, you get energy efficiency when 100% recycled. If you gave the batteries back to them to 100% recycle the Aluminum, these batteries would be a better proposition.

The problem with hydrogen fuel cells again are Cost of the hydrogen (its more than gasoline, the enegy used to make and compress or liquify it are part of the problem) Lack of fueling infrastructure (California is about to try to provide infrastructure for maybe 20,000 cars for $200M, that’s $10K/car). I can’t imagine who will want to pay for these in the US. Cost of the fuel cell (technology can help) Cost of the tank (technology can help) I’m sure these aluminum air batteries can be recycled at a reasonable cost, probably similar to the cost of hydrogen, but…. you don’t have the other 3 problems. You can just ups spent plates if you are in a remote area. Say it takes 4x the energy you get out of a battery to recycle the plates and transport them back and forth. That seems much easier than hydrogen, and could use solar and wind 😉 consider it as an extended range in a 70 mile aer plug-in that gets 100 mpge and 75% utlization. Add in that range extender at 25 mpge for 25% of the time and you get 57 mpge (on electric). Take a 70 mpge fcv (the… Read more »

Its also about economic entrenchment.I don’t want centralized government deciding what type of transportation I have to use for the next 200 years because the company’s involved have invested into an all-consuming infrastructure and cant afford to allow investments anywhere else.

Anyone noticed how slow the demo vehicle was going? It was mostly on traffic free roads but where there was traffic going in the same direction, they all blew past the demo car. Dunno if I want a primary cell just to creep around.

I noticed that the battery installed in the rear, didn’t allow the hatch to fully close… During the entire video, the rear door is shown partially open. Not sure if that’s intentional to get O2 to the cells, or if that speaks more to a packaging limitation for their pack? *shrugs*

But that little hardware issue (not being able to fully close all the demo vehicles doors) did strike me as amateurish.

From an economic and sustainability standpoint there are major hurtles to making an aluminum-air cell practical. The aluminum-air cell is more fuel-cell like than battery with single usage before needing “fuel”.

What are the costs to recharge? Cost of aluminum per pound? Cost of distilled per gallon? Note: tap water is not distilled … distilling water requires a significant amount of energy). Will we need a network of recycling/recharge factories to process alumiumn from used cells? Again an energy intensive process … not including transporting cells to/from factories. It will be difficult to compete with the low operating costs of other battery-cell chemistries that last 2000-5000 cycles.

This is not the future of electric vehicles.

This batteries might be useful for stationary emergency power systems, but not in daily used systems.

alas – this may be the end of Al beer cans. Damn those Israelis.

+1

LOL Shawn!
Hey, it’d be killing two birds with one stone.
Remove aluminum from our food supply chain, and reduce a causal factor for Alzheimer’s dementia.
Reduce beer consumption, and decrease liver cirrhosis & brain damage from alcoholism.
I spent many years caring for people dying from these ailments, in nursing homes. Witnessed so much needless suffering.

This was obviously a range experiment. The video clearly shows them pulling to the side of the road a few times to let faster cars pass. 330km might be possible in that limited example, but driving at regular speeds, we might see 200-250km of real-world range. Still very good!

Their video also mentioned their research in zinc-air batteries. I wonder how far they’ve gotten with that.

capacity of aluminium is 2980 amp.hours per kg. of this more than ninety percent capacity is achievable by using the best aluminium alloy and the best inhibitor to avoid self corrosion of aluminium. the next question is about the power of aluminium-air battery. this purely depends on the rate of drainage of current. just for arguement if you draw the maximum current at minimum voltage namely one volt the power is 2980 watthours per kg of aluminium. now one can calculate the real wattage at optimum capacity and voltage. everything said and done aluminium-air battery is only a mechanically rechargeable battery only. can we think of the use of al-air and zinc-air batteries in combination . v.kapali 3.04.14 chennai-93
the most suitable aluminium is the superpurity aluminium. this variety aluminium is 99.99 percent pure. this when alloyed with other elements will giv 99.8 percent prevention to selfcorrosion its anode efficiency is 99.9 percent. we in our centra electrochemical research insitute.karaikudi, india as early as1995 to 1998 itself. further we haddeveloped the best alkaline electrolyte developed by us. i request you to go through our papers in journal of power sources , journal of applied electro chemisty and british corrosion. we had taken about ten patents also in india.i would be happy if you understand appreciate our excellent work on various aspects of aluminium-air battery’ drv.kapali chennai…india 11.04.14
I just saw the YouTube video produced by Phinergy, from journalist/author/researcher/actress/activist Alexandra Bruce’s website Forbidden Knowledge TV, via today’s email. She gave it credibility & endorsement, by forwarding it to her global audience. And stated in her email preface, that she believed the claims by Phinergy. My engineering & chemistry studies/background, applied in the Environmental fields, are ancient, if not totally obsolete, circa 1970s & 80s. I’m a second generation female scientist, both myself & my mother are no longer in practice; she is long retired. And I’ve had a few other careers since then, not related to science. All in the arena of the humanities. I discovered I preferred the challenge of interpersonal relationships, versus intellectual pursuits. I am certainly not the expert to comment on this technology. IMHO, having watched the slickly produced short version advertisement, my gut instinct told me it simply did not add up. The chemistry is simple, but there are problems with corrosion, rechargeability, production & infrastructure costs, and fulfilling the need for speed. All this, and more, have already been cited here. It seems to me that this video was intended to impress the corporate profit motive, and befuddle the scientific illiterate. Speaking… Read more »