By now, most of you have heard about the big changes coming from the auto industry as carmakers move to military-grade aluminum alloys to achieve massive fuel efficiency gains. What’s gotten somewhat less attention is another major innovation coming from the aluminum industry that could move electric cars into the mainstream.
To date, electric cars have achieved limited adoption partly due to “range anxiety” – consumer concern that their battery will die before reaching their destination. A recent announcement by Association member company Alcoa and clean technology firm Phinergy could change all that.
Debuted during the Canadian International Aluminium Conference (CIAC), the companies showed off an electric car featuring an aluminum-air battery, which can extend the car’s travel distance by approximately 1,000 miles.
The battery itself consists of 50 plates, each one of which can power a car for around 20 miles. When used as a supplement to a conventional lithium-ion battery, the aluminum-air battery can extend vehicle range enormously. The secret is in the vast amounts of energy stored within aluminum -- which is released using air and water.
Commented Phinergy CEO Aviv Tzidon, “Compared to other batteries, the fundamental difference is energy density – the aluminum-air density allows you to do more with less weight. With greater energy density, you are creating electric vehicles with travel distances, purchase prices and life-cycle costs that are comparable to fossil-fuel cars.”
Beyond electric vehicles, applications for the aluminum-air batteries are potentially endless – from generators for hospitals and data centers to defense applications to emergency first responder support. Much of the research and development on this project took place at the Alcoa Technical Center outside of Pittsburgh, which is the largest light metals research facility in the world.
Check out this amazing video explaining how the battery was developed.