The greatest impediment to the general adoption of EV technology has always been physics; an EV battery exhausts it's stored energy far more quickly (thanks to lower energy density) than the fuel-tank of a conventional car, and unlike the ICE vehicle, can't be topped off with a fresh supply in seconds.
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Germany seem to have shattered at least the second part of this paradigm by making advances in the area of redox flow batteries.
According to engineer Jens Noack of ICT “These batteries are based on fluid electrolytes. They can therefore be recharged at the gas station in a few minutes – the discharged electrolyte is simply pumped out and replaced with recharged fluid,”. “The pumped-off electrolyte can be recharged at the gas station, for example...".
Like the battery Swap technology being promoted by Better Place Inc., liquid electrolyte replenishing would seem to offer EV's the same effectively unlimited range that internal combustion vehicles enjoy, but would require far less in the way of new infrastructure and avoid issues of battery ownership and vehicle standardization that may prove hurdles to the Better Place solution.
Redox flow batteries are not a new technology, but until now they have had the disadvantage of storing much less energy than lithium-ion batteries – around 25% the KW/H per unit volume. According to Noac, however, ICT has now produced a prototype cell with an energy density approximately equivalent to Li Ion. Further work is now being carried out to assemble multiple such cells into a battery and optimize them. In cooperation with The University of Applied Sciences, Ostfalia, the research team has allready built a traditional redox-flow battery into a 1:5 scale vehicle for testing and public demonstration. In the coming year they will be building an optimized version of their new battery into a similar vehicle.