According to Advanced Power and Energy Sources Transportation (APET) in Hong Kong, the cordless, no-solar-panel EV is about to become a reality. Developments in Zinc-air battery technology have been made which promise to make the technology a serious contender in the EV world.
Zinc-air batteries need only Zinc, air and water to produce electricity via a simple oxidation reaction. The existing technology is quite mature; in hearing-aids for instance, Zinc-air batteries currently control a large share of the market. They are cheap to produce, high energy-density, and actually biodegradable. Moreover, Zinc is among the most abundant and inexpensive metals on earth and therefore Zinc-air batteries are not susceptible to materials shortages or production bottlenecks.
But up until now Zinc-Air, arguably the "greenest" high-density battery technology, has had three drawbacks making it unsuitable for EV applications. APET believe that they have now overcome all three:
Weight - The usual materials needed to create a zinc-air battery are relatively heavy, but APETs new ZOE design creates a battery which has twice as many Wh/kg (watt hours/kilogram) as a typical lithium-polymer (Li-Po) solution.
Cost - Existing technology results in batteries which are quite expensive, but the new technology has yielded a phenomenal reduction in price, estimated at one-tenth of a Li-Po solution and one-fifth of a NiMH one.
Rechargeability - with traditional Zinc-air batteries, once the zinc has been exhausted they’re dead and cannot be recharged. Current units are designed to be disposable (and are in fact, biodegradable), but the new ZOE battery is designed to allow the casing to be taken apart and reused with a fresh batch of zinc. No external charging need take place. Moreover, the exhausted Zinc removed from the discharged battery can be reconstituted by the application of extreme heat, then simply placed in a depleted battery casing and re-used. This is about the most environmentally friendly battery technology imaginable, and has functional similarities to cutting edge redox-flow in that "recharge" of an individual unit takes place by simply adding material rather than by plugging in and waiting. This closely resembles the existing petroleum fuel model, and potentially takes "range-anxiety" out of the EV equation.
APET is currently testing a ZOE powered concept car called “The Salamander”, and further refining the technology in an effort to bring it to market. If they are successful in their efforts, a revolutionary new paradigm for EV cost, refueling and infrastructure may alter the way electric vehicles everywhere are going to operate.