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Aluminum-Air Battery Developer Phinergy Partners With Alcoa

 

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Enlarge Photo

Battery developer Phinergy is moving toward its goal of marketing an aluminum-air battery that could offer electric-car drivers 1,000 miles of range.

Green Car Congress reports that the Israeli startup has entered into a joint development agreement with Alcoa.

The partnership--announced at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Atlanta--will focus on materials, processes, and components that will help commercialize Phinergy's aluminum-air battery.

An aluminum-air battery uses an aluminum plate as an anode and ambient air as the cathode. The aluminum is slowly sacrificed as its molecules combine with oxygen to give off energy.

This type of battery has historically been confined to military applications because of the need to remove aluminum oxide and replace the anode plates as they degrade.

Phinergy says its patented cathode material allows oxygen from ambient air to enter the cells freely, while blocking contamination from carbon dioxide--historically a cause of failure in aluminum-air cells.

ALSO SEE: Phinergy 1000-Mile Aluminum-Air Battery: On The Road By 2017?

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Citroen test car fitted with Phinergy prototype aluminum-air battery

Enlarge Photo
It also claims a much higher energy density for its battery than that of lithium-ion packs.

Last year, the company demonstrated a converted Citroen C1 minicar with a 55-pound battery pack that had the energy capacity for 1,000 miles of driving.

That's an apparent energy density more than 100 times greater than that of a conventional lithium-ion pack.

While a production version with added thermal conditioning and safety enclosures would probably weigh more, the significantly greater energy capacity would effectively eliminate range anxiety.

Granted, the technology is still in the early stages of development. If the aluminum-air battery ever makes into a production car, automakers will have to devise a way of replacing the anode plates.

The energy-intensive process of mining and refining aluminum would also have to be considered in any assessment of the well-to-wheels emissions of an aluminum-air battery.

Phinergy had previously said that it had signed a contract with a global automaker, and that it plans to have a production battery ready by 2017.

That's not very far away, so the partnership with Alcoa would appear to be a solid step toward that goal.

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