How Useful is an Aluminium Air Battery?

How useful is an aluminium air battery?
How useful is an aluminium air battery?

The subject of alternative electric vehicle battery technology continues to grab the headlines and while IBM seems to be on the verge of releasing a technology which could power a vehicle for 500 miles per full charge, there has been much talk of aluminium air batteries. So what are aluminium air batteries and how useful will they be to the electric vehicle industry in the future?

At this moment in time the technology is in testing with Citroen, one of many companies looking at introducing these particular batteries to its electric vehicle fleet. The company has confirmed it was able to travel a distance of 1000 miles although this type of battery is not rechargeable in the familiar sense of the word.

Details of aluminium air batteries

As the name suggests, aluminium is a major element of this particular type of battery technology, together with distilled water. The technology has been perfected so that each battery pack will have a journey capacity of 1000 miles, although in reality the distilled water used with the technology will need to be refilled every 200 miles. At this moment in time the aluminium electrodes will not last beyond 1000 miles and while we may see some improvement in the technology not everyone is convinced it is the long-term solution.

However there are a number of other factors to take into consideration such as the fact aluminium air batteries have an energy density 100 times greater than their lithium ion counterparts and weigh but a fraction of EV batteries today.

Fuel efficiency

While there are obvious drawbacks with regards to aluminium air batteries at the moment, such as the fact they will need to be replaced every 1000 miles, the weight of the battery will improve fuel efficiency for EVs and in the future they could be readily available to acquire in retail outlets around the world. There is a suggestion that perhaps the best part they can play in the EV market today is as some form of range extender which could kick in when traditional lithium ion batteries are nearing their journey capacity.

Quote from ElectricForum.com : "Aluminium–air battery is not a new technology although previously there have been constraints regarding oxidisation of the metal. However, it seems that Phinergy may have an answer to this problem which could potentially create a battery for use in 2017 with a journey capacity of 1000 miles. The only downside seems to be that plates within the battery will need to be replaced every 1000 miles."

It will be interesting to see as and when this particular technology is released to the market place because it is just one of many new battery types on the verge of commercialisation.

Recycling aluminium

There have been concerns expressed regarding the use of aluminium and the fact that this would in theory increase mining for this element. Even though the battery itself would need replaced after 1000 miles, there would still be aluminium within the battery, which could be recycled for further use. It will be interesting to see future reports on further testing of this particular technology which at the moment is something of a mystery.

If we could somehow incorporate the recycling of EV batteries, extended journey capacity, a reduction in weight as well as a reduction in cost, this could be the Holy Grail of the EV industry. It may turn out that the long-term solution lies elsewhere with a different type of EV battery technology but the fact that alternative solutions are being openly discussed certainly gives confidence to the idea that EVs will eventually replace the gasoline guzzlers of today.