Alcoa & Phinergy's Innovative Aluminum-Air Battery EV Makes Successful First Test Run

Is fear of a drained battery holding you back from buying an electric car? Aluminum producer Alcoa and clean tech company Phinergy have got something for that: a revolutionary aluminum-air battery pack that promises drivers a whopping 1,000 miles between charge-ups!

The wider world first became aware of this battery technology's awesome potential at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Atlanta last February, where it was announced that Alcoa had entered into a joint development agreement with Israeli startup company Phinergy.

“Electric vehicle adoption has been slowed by the limited range of regular batteries,” explained Phinergy CEO Aviv Tzidon. “With Phinergy's technology and Alcoa's industrial leadership, we see an exciting opportunity to help move electric vehicles into the mainstream.”

Speaking of moving, on June 2nd the project's test mule (a converted Citroen C1 minicar modified to run off a 55-pound aluminum-air battery pack) wowed reporters invited to observe it at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec.

The location is no coincidence, according to Martin Briere, president of Alcoa Canada. “Alcoa and Phinergy look forward to collaborating with the Quebec government to advance this technology,” he stated, and “our production facility in Baie-Comeau is well positioned to provide the aluminum for the battery.” Following the successful debut of the battery technology, Alcoa and Phinergy are heading to Montreal where they will formally present their aluminum-air electric car project to the Canadian International Aluminum Conference.

Phinergy's aluminum-air battery (shown above) works by allowing oxygen from the air to react with the battery's aluminum plates – fifty of which make up the core of the battery. According to company spokesmen, just one of the battery’s 50 such plates can power an electric car for about 20 miles or 35 km. Doing the math, that works out to a total range of 1,000 miles or 1,600 kilometers! Check out this video from PhinergyTV for a from-the-horse's-mouth explanation of the technology.

The technology isn't pie in the sky, either, as aluminum-air batteries have been employed in military applications for some time. Adapting the technology for civilian uses has been problematic, however, as carbon dioxide contamination can cause the battery to malfunction and stop producing electricity.

The benefits go far beyond increased range for drivers: aluminum offers light weight (especially compared to lead batteries) as well as being completely recyclable, non-toxic and relatively cheap. “Automotive manufacturers are looking for technologies that enable zero-emission cars to travel the same kinds of distances as gasoline-powered cars,” said Dr. Raymond Kilmer, Alcoa's Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. Phinergy's innovative and promising aluminum-air battery could be just what they've been looking for. (via AutoNet/Glen Woodcock, Green Car Reports, and Car Engineer)