Phinergy 1000-Mile Aluminum-Air Battery: On The Road In 2017?

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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.

Filling up with water

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.

Aluminum and air electrodes

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 (courtesy of Wikipedia) is: 4Al + 3O2 + 6H2O → 4Al(OH)3 + energy

That is, four aluminum atoms, three oxygen molecules, and six water molecules combine 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 from ambient air to enter the cell freely, while blocking contamination from carbon dioxide in the air--historically a cause of failure in aluminum-air cells.

It is also developing zinc-air batteries, which can be recharged electrically and do not sacrifice their metal electrode as the aluminum-air cells do.

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Enlarge Photo

'Most promising candidates'

But in a 2002 study, researchers from the University of Rhode Island concluded that aluminum-air batteries were the only electric-car technology "projected to have a travel range comparable" to conventional cars.

The study said such batteries are the "most promising terms of travel range, purchase price, fuel cost, and life-cycle cost" when compared to cars powered by internal-combustion engines.

Much higher energy density

Each aluminum plate, says Tzidon, has enough energy capacity to power the car for roughly 20 miles (we'd guesstimate it at perhaps 7 kWh), and the test car has 50 of those plates.

The entire battery, he says, weighs just 55 pounds (25 kilograms)--apparently giving it an energy density more than 100 times that of today's conventional lithium-ion pack.

We suspect that for a production vehicle, the battery might be considerably heavier once fitted with thermal conditioning and safety enclosures (which appear to be notably missing in the prototype).

Still, energy storage that's an order of magnitude higher in energy density than today's lithium-ion batteries would be a highly desirable technology for an automaker serious about electric cars--since it would essentially eliminate any issue of range anxiety.

As far as we know, there are no vehicles on the U.S. market today that offer 1,000 miles of continuous range using either gasoline or diesel fuel.

Unanswered questions

As with any early technology demonstration, many questions remain to be answered about how an aluminum-air battery would be used in high-volume production electric cars.

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Comments (44)
  1. I have always maintained that the clock is ticking for Better Place, as batteries get better and better, their services get less necessary. Now, the competition comes from the same country!
    Few countries in the world have as an urgent need to get energy independent as Israel does. I have not watched the video yet; but do they state how much water is needed?

  2. Comment disabled by moderators.

  3. If people would just adopt current technology like current lithium battery technology in higher numbers it would bring the cost down. Also adopting current technology like proper usage of the shift lock and shift key the world would be a better place...

  4. What happens to the water after its been used? And really I think water is a resource that we need to protect so I already don't like the idea.

  5. I am sure the water will come back out when the Aluminium hydroxide is re-processed the battery back into aluminum metal again.

    Aluminium hydroxide --> aluminium oxide --> Aluminum metal

  6. Maybe we should look at the total energy conversion of that process.

    If we lose 50% of the energy going back to the metal, then what is benefit?

    Aluminium oxide takes a lot of energy to be processed into pure aluminum.

  7. Good point

  8. true an AL processing is one of the most electrically intensive processes there is but it also satisfies the question of grid storage. processing AlO2 into Al with excess power is definitely something to look into. whether Al processing can be ramped up and down quickly enough remains to be seen but looks like BP would still be in business, just not as robust. changing out packs every 1000 miles definitely not as lucrative as changing them out every 75 miles

  9. As far as chemical reactions are concerned, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, if we lose 50% of the energy going back to the metal then we are only harnessing 50% of the energy in the first place and a truly efficient aluminum air battery could go 2000 miles on the same water. I have hopes that the engineers can do better then this by making it almost as efficient as Li-ion batteries, which are ~ 85% efficient in electric vehicles.

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. Perhaps this is the technology that will make battery exchange The Answer to the problem of charging time.

  12. Interesting concept, but this is not a battery, it's a fuel cell. This doesn't store electrons, it produces them through a chemical reaction. The fuel here is aluminum and once it's spent it needs to be replaced. So one has to tank water and replace the aluminum plates regularly. Maybe the whole device needs to be changed out for refurbishment every 1000 miles? Raises some questions about real world practicality and cost of the concept.

  13. true that but if we look at it in a weight sense. its 25 Kg when most battery packs are in the 100-130 kg weight range. now we dont know how much water is involved but if we get it to where its changed out every 5,000 miles or so, that becomes attractive and still within reasonable weight considerations for this prototype technology that I have to assume will only get more efficient over time

  14. So, the "trick" of this thing is it is using the energy from the air (oxygen) in this case. No different from ICE cars where some of the energy is captured from "air" (oxygen)...

    I bet its altitude performance will suffer where BEV won't...

  15. Great article. Would love to know who the automaker for 2017 is?

  16. The prototype was a Citroen which may or may not be relevant.

  17. While it can legitly called a fuelcell it's far more a primary battery they reform/remanufacture each time.

    And while it is 30% likely less eff than a lithium, it's overall eff is rather good.

    Zinc/air I think has more promise, power and doesn't require such large battery pack if any at all.

    Any EV that has changeable battery packs has the same rage as a gas car. You need the rangfe you need, not what other cars can do. For instance many MC's have under 100 mile gas range.

    It's really you need the stations before the EV's to use them and you need the EV's before you can do the stations.

  18. The aluminum is consumed in the discharge process. Thus the battery is not really recharable. The hydrated aluminum oxide will have to be to be shipped someplace to recover the metal. This process do not sound promising at all.

  19. Why not? It gives Jiffy Lube a reason to exist in an EV world, just get your water changed every X miles like an oil change, and they can recycle it and get a bit more $$ instead of having to pay to dump the oil.

  20. I heard a similar fanfare before when Zinc Air first appeared on the scene a few years ago - I think the tag line was "1000 mile range" back then too. As other have suggested, it is not the method of delivering the range, it is the efficiency in doing so. Not least environmental impact. Here in the UK, avoiding petrol & Diesel has nothing to do with environment or efficiency - it is the 80% tax levied. I would run my car on bananas if it only cost me 20% of the equivalent range in diesel...

  21. I'd say concerns about "carbon footprints" are pretty much passe at this point, since recent two-decade plus failure to warm has rendered previous estimates of carbon effects totally invalid.
    The issue here is mostly cost, all other claims being close to reality, and that means actual lifetime costs,not Tesla Motor company phoney baloney cost claims. At 1000 miles, recharge times are not very important.

  22. You don't know the 1st thing about climate science and likely don't care except to troll so I won't bother to explain that not only has the global average temp risen significantly in the last 2 decades, it's continuing to rise.

  23. Seems to me that this tech would be better suited to home storage of excess power storage from solar for example... Water available, and plates could be posted to you, and posted back too!

  24. Generally, I appreciate the coverage on very much. Still one addition needs to be made to the following sentence: "As far as we know, there are no vehicles on the market today that offer 1,000 miles of continuous range using either gasoline or diesel fuel."

    There are vehicles on the market today that offer 1,000 miles of continuous range using diesel fuel.
    1) Ford Mondeo 1.6 TDCI ECOnetic - consumption 4.3 liters per 100km according to new european driving cycle, gas tank of 70 liters, range 1,628 km (=1,011 miles).
    2) VW Passat Bluemotion - consumption 4.1 liters per 100km according to new european driving cycle, gas tank of 70 liters, range 1,707 km (=1,060 miles).

    Hope the addition is helpful.

  25. @Donald: We probably should have added "in the U.S. market" since the two cars you mention are European, and not sold in the United States.

  26. This was a surprising response. Instead of writing "Yes, that addition is helpful", the above lines can be read. "[S]ince the two cars you mention are European, and not sold in the United States" - somebody seems to take much pleasure in stating the obvious, the original posting even mentioned the european driving cycle twice, and both the person writing that and the readers here will be aware of it that this means that those cars very likely are offered on the European market. Besides, covers European topics all the time. Top contributors of like Antony Ingram and the wonderful Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield are even based in England. So it's not irrelevant to this website, that there are these cars on the European market.

  27. It seems interesting, that a reply to a post that states how much the coverage on is appreciated, would be like this. It says "We probably should have added 'in the U.S. market' [...]", and 1 month passes, the article still says "As far as we know, there are no vehicles on the market today that offer 1,000 miles of continuous range using either gasoline or diesel fuel." So readers still have to check out the comments, to get in touch with reality, that there are vehicles on the market that go further than 1000 miles. The great thing about the web is, unlike a printed newspaper, things can be added. Sadly, they are not added here. Nonetheless, the whole team, please keep up the work informing about environmental vehicles.

  28. @"Donald Duck": Thanks for the good words. I've added "U.S." to the sentence in question.

  29. Aluminum costs about $0.85/lb. If you can really go 20 miles on one pound of aluminum or less(or $0.0425/mile), you would have to get 94mpg from gasoline at $4.00/gallon to equal that. Of course, replacing the aluminum plates would presumably cost more than the raw cost of aluminum, but the economics look interesting, to say the least. If you can get 20 miles/pound, you can theoretically carry fuel (plates) for an extra 400 miles with and extra 20lbs of aluminum plates. Just add water...

  30. says here that alumimun is almost $20 per pound. that puts you fuel cost for this battery at say $1 per mile your math. In my oponion this battery does not look competive against lithium ion batteries. especially if you have to take the car to the shop and pay somebody to put new plates in the battery every 1000 miles. Or maybe i'm wrong.

  31. From the article you quoted: "Aluminium, untraded at the close, was last bid at $1,871.5 from $1,884. It
    earlier hit its lowest since late August at $1,869." That's $1872.5/ton or 1872.5/2000 = $0.93625/lb. So my $0.85 was a little low, but the price does vary day by day. Also, I was assuming that one could create modular batteries with easily swappable plates or plate-modules.

  32. One great thing about these aluminum air batteries is that it opens up electric cars to people who don't have their own garage, or access to an electric outlet for their car. People who live in apartments, row homes, condos, town homes, etc.. You just replace the battery every 1000 to 5000 miles or whatever. Instead of plugging in an electric cord every night, which I can't do because I sometimes have to park my car a quarter mile away down the street from my apartment, I would just carry a couple gallons of distilled water down the street every 200 miles or so and pour the water into my electric car battery "tank". This technology opens up electric cars to a large segment of the population that doesn't have private garages.

  33. There are so many clueless comments here, I can hardly stand it.

    1. Lithium ion batteries rely on rare earth metals that can ONLY BE MINED IN CHINA. The cost will NEVER GO DOWN.

    2. Equations work both ways, or else it isn't an equation. Reversing the process takes energy, yes. You can simply melt it back into ore. The point is to make energy PORTABLE. That's what batteries do.

    3. Aluminum and water are plentiful. And your Country has it, unlike Li/Ion components. That brings prices down, not using more of a finite resource from Asscrackistan, China. I realize you hippies don't know your battery components are shipped from China to Canada and then to you, but that doesn't make it any less a reality.

  34. @"Henry Thoreau": A note from your friendly site moderator here.

    First, please keep it polite. I debated on hiding the comment above for a combination of rudeness and near-profanity. I'm sure you can say what you want to say without using words like "you hippies" and "Asscrackistan". OK?

    Second, aluminium ore is plentiful but it takes a great deal of energy to turn it into pure aluminum plate or alloys.

    Third, rare-earth metals are found in several places outside China. That country simply drove down prices over the last decade until mines elsewhere went out of business. There's one in Mountain Pass, California, for instance, that is in the process of re-opening.

  35. FYI - "top producing countries for lithium last year (2009 in this article) were Chile with 7,400 tonnes; Australia 4,400 tonnes; China 2,300 tonnes; and Argentina 2,200 tonnes, with worldwide estimates totaling 18,000 tonnes." from

  36. Please don't stand it. Go away instead. There is more than enough ignorance and racism on the internet without your contributions, thanks very much.

  37. I really dislike the media when they display false or miss-leading headlines. "Runs on thin air". It runs on aluminum and water.

    That said this is still attractive. There is little point in spending the money and energy to change the resultant aluminum oxide back to pure aluminum, as there is a large market for aluminum oxide.

  38. Phinergy: Sounds pretty Phishy to me.

  39. Electric cars, whether powered by batteries or fuel cells, will kill off the oil industry like the Internet killed off the newspaper business. The sooner, the better.

  40. The other major potential problem I see here is that it doesn't state what kind of water is required... What if this system needs fresh or distilled water? If this system ran on salt water (which thinking about the chemistry makes me think it cant) then they have a game changer, if it cant then it has either an added cost (fresh water isn't free everywhere) or it is limited to only a few places/countries around the world.

  41. Mike 23 lines down and 14 words over "Distilled"

  42. Does anything in the article indicate what type of aluminium would be needed? Lets say that I have a pile of scrap aluminum of approximately the correct thickness - I could use a cheap hand shear for the outside dimensions - but the alloys in my pile could very from 2024 Al to 6061 Al whatever. Is this simply a case where aluminum is aluminum and the temper or alloy doesn't matter? I would also be concerned with any finish such as alodine on the aluminum sheet/plate.

  43. This same technology could/should work as an emergency power backup for homes too. The technology sounds to be closer for out daily use than "Cold Fusion" or the "Bloom Box."

  44. The Inventor numbers do not hold, it’s a delicate formulation

    There was Israeli company "Better Place", now former Better Place who developed EV based on rapidly replaceable battery. Pinergy with mechanically replaceable battery and or core seems will face similar fate. It looks like the main driver behind this concept is quickie IPO!. From technological, energetic, and commercialization point of view it has many flaws. Historically, Air Aluminum batteries being used in emergency, and defense sectors because Aluminum has high volumetric energy density (reduces battery volume) and medium to low energy density per unit weight. In defense sector most of application included marine applications in submersible underwater vehicles because a comm

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