Battery developer Phinergy and metal manufacturer Alcoa have teamed up at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal to demonstrate their aluminum-air battery in a small electric vehicle, which could make it travel 1,000 miles on a single charge.
The test car, which appeared to be using the body of a Citroen C1, used lithium-ion and aluminum-air batteries for the run. But the question of whether or not it makes sense to take this little EV on a 1,000-mile road trip is not quite that simple.
The aluminum-air battery is lightweight, and more energy dense than the lithium-ion batteries in use today. The product of the aluminum anode, ambient air (oxygen) cathode and water electrolyte is an electrical charge the power the car, and the resultant aluminum hydroxide byproduct is recycled to create more aluminum. When the aluminum-air battery is depleted, the modular aluminum "cartridges" can be swapped out for new ones at a service station.
So no, the aluminum-air battery isn't something you can recharge at home (or at all, really), but its simplicity of management and closed-loop life cycle are impressive. Furthermore, it offers a shelf life of 20 to 30 years. If used as a range extender in a car using a lithium battery as its primary energy source, like this particular vehicle, it could be quite practical, and give drivers a carbon-free option for backup power.
So, depending on the cost of the aluminum-air batteries, and the availability of service stations, vehicles like Alcoa-Phinergy car could be used for 1,000-mile trips. In all practicality, though, the aluminum batteries make the most sense when compared to gasoline-range extended vehicles, and there's nothing wrong with putting a much cleaner energy option on the table. If this aluminum-air tech gets legs - and demand - the idea of it becoming a primary source of power for long-range vehicles could be in our future, too.