Aluminium as a new source of clean energy for electric vehicles

Israeli electric car battery company Phinergy announced a $50 million investment recently, led by the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa with $10 million. It brings Phinergy’s total valuation to $280 million, according to Israeli financial news site Calcalist. Alcoa is the largest aluminum producer in the world with about 59,000 employees.

Phinergy is developing aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries for low-to-zero-carbon emissions systems. Common car batteries utilize stored oxygen in a wide part of the device called the cathode, while Phinergy’s battery siphons oxygen from ambient (common) air and eliminates the need for a bulky cathode.

The two companies signed a cooperation agreement back in 2013 and have since developed a new heavily-aluminum electric car engine. Both companies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of the aluminum-air battery on a boat at Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland in 2014. A press release about that demo claims the battery gives the boat an extra 25 hours at sea (30 total) as opposed to a mere five.

Phinergy is not the only company producing zinc-air and aluminum-air batteries — Fuji Pigment claimed last year its Al-air batteries could last two weeks and be refilled with water — but the industry faces some hurdles toward widespread market penetration.

While work on improving aluminum-air batteries slowed in the 1980s, Phinergy asserts its technology makes them a feasible option again. Their approach purports that its air electrodes last far longer, are immune to the carbonization that plagued the chemistry of previous battery models, and uses a silver-based catalyst. One issue that still plagues the aluminum-air battery option is that they aren’t rechargeable, though the aluminum oxide the batteries leave behind can be recycled for new cells.

Phinergy’s Al-air technology has been masterred for a lifespan of thousands of working hours, relieving the main constraints of electric transportation and clean distributed generation.


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