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Group Demonstrates 3,000 Km Electric Car Battery

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the keep-on-trucking dept.

Canada 363

Jabrwock (985861) writes 'One of the biggest limitations on lithium battery-powered electric cars has been their range. Last year Israeli-based Phinergy introduced an "aluminum-air" battery. Today, partnering with Alcoa Canada, they announced a demo of the battery, which is charged up at Alcoa's aluminum smelter in Quebec. The plant uses hydro-electric power to charge up the battery, which would then need a tap-water refill every few months, and a swap (ideally at a local dealership) every 3,000km, since it cannot be recharged as simply as Lithium. The battery is meant to boost the range of standard electric cars, which would still use the Lithium batteries for short-range trips. The battery would add about 100 kg to an existing Tesla car's battery weight.'

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Hm.... (2)

thieh (3654731) | about 7 months ago | (#47170747)

I wonder whether anyone will remember doing this sort of maintenance (filling the tap water part) without some sort of big warning or display somewhere.

Re:Hm.... (3, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 months ago | (#47170769)

The car grinding to a halt would be a pretty efficient warning.

Re:Hm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171441)

You're assuming that that's the only bad effect. I expect something less pleasant: as the water level falls, the current density through the remaining water increases. If it drops too far, the water will start decomposing into hydrogen and oxygen. And since this is an aluminum-air battery, the hydrogen will vent (the oxygen will react with the aluminum). Of course, as the water dissociates, the level just drops faster, so it's a runaway process. It may even get hot. So, we have a hot battery venting hydrogen through its air intakes.

Nope, doesn't sound safe to me.

Re:Hm.... (1)

Thavilden (1613435) | about 7 months ago | (#47171087)

Maybe something like a dial gauge indicating the fill level on the dashboard cluster, kind of like a gas tank that we remember to fill pretty frequently.

It's a real issue. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171097)

I wonder whether anyone will remember doing this sort of maintenance (filling the tap water part) without some sort of big warning or display somewhere.

I have an antique electric tractor. [wikipedia.org] It's 41 years old and runs great, with almost zero maintenance; it uses about 20 cents worth of electricity to mow an acre of grass. If I replace the motor brushes every 30 years, and periodically wash out and maintain the corrosion-prone battery compartment, it will last forever.

But the achilles heel of these machines is battery maintenance, which consists of watering the big lead acid batteries and properly charging them. There are no mysteries in this process, and no great difficulties - you just have to remember to do it, and the batteries simply will not forgive forgetfulness. Properly cared for batteries can easily last twelve years, but it's very common for people to ruin a $600+ set of batteries in two years or less, simply from a lack of mindfulness. That changes the economics of it, which are heavily front-loaded. If your batteries last ten years, the tractor is much cheaper to own and operate than a gasser, but if you destroy your pack in two years, you waste that huge upfront battery investment and take a financial beating.

The Toyota Prius's NiMH battery packs were designed with this human reality in mind; the intelligent battery management electronics are the key to that car's success. Tesla took it one step further; they not only have intelligent battery management that does not require functioning user brain cells, they also built a high cell count charging system that allows rapid charging without compromising battery capacities.

Depending on humans to do battery maintenance doesn't work, in practice, except in the case of engineering geeks who are not even slightly behaviorally representative of the species as a whole.

Re:It's a real issue. (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47171251)

The electric tractor thing is pretty cool, particularly considering the failure of the "Raven" recently sold a Lowe's but later pulled.

Excellent points about battery care. Thanks for sharing.

Re:Hm.... (3)

MiniMike (234881) | about 7 months ago | (#47171199)

That's a small detail. If it can use tap water, it can also use water from the condenser coil or filtered rainwater collection. Or they could just add a small reservoir (similar to the windshield wiper fluid reservoir) which gets topped off when they change the battery.

Or they could just fill it up with the "amazing, mileage extending super water" which would be sure to hit the shelves soon after these batteries are released.

Re:Hm.... (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 7 months ago | (#47171221)

because the issue of notifying the driver has never existed before...

Re:Hm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171313)

The sight of burning Aluminum is quite beautiful as the British found out during the Falklands War. Lesson: Don't build warships out of Al and don't use a 100 kg block of Al in a motor car.

Re:Hm.... (2)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 7 months ago | (#47171413)

I wonder whether anyone will remember doing this sort of maintenance (filling the tap water part) without some sort of big warning or display somewhere.

I wonder if anyone will remember changing oil as a sort of maintenance without some sort of big warning or display somewhere. #thestupiditburns

haha. they call if "charging the battery" (4, Informative)

idji (984038) | about 7 months ago | (#47170789)

Why don't they get honest and say "Smelting aluminium at 960 degrees".

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (3, Interesting)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47170859)

Its hard to see how the energy cycle makes sense. Melting down the aluminum to reform a "charged" battery does not seem intuitively efficient. Even if the process is powered from beautiful clean hydro.

Battery trailers make more sense than swapping, IMO.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (4, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47170939)

It'll be pretty damn efficient at putting a lot of money into the hands of the dealerships where you have to switch those batteries out, though.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171019)

It's every 3000 miles. You'd get it done at the Quickee Lube place at the same time you get your oil changed. There would be no need to have high priced dealerships involved. The market has ways of dealing with this type of thing (overpriced simple maintenance).

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171095)

TRY READING, 3000 miles is not 3000 km.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 7 months ago | (#47171405)

The 3000 km is about 1864 miles.
So, how long does it usually take you to rack up that mileage?

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#47171453)

On one hand, that's only a little less than 1/2 of a typical oil change interval. On the other hand, the actual oil change is eliminated, and swapping this sucker in should be a lot easier than actually doing an oil change. For one thing, they won't be leaving off your drain plug.

Re: haha. they call if "charging the battery" (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170963)

"Charging aluminum" consumes a LOT of heat + carbon (anode burning) + fluorine (escape from electrolyte). It's not just clean hydro-electricity.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#47171047)

Its hard to see how the energy cycle makes sense. Melting down the aluminum to reform a "charged" battery does not seem intuitively efficient. Even if the process is powered from beautiful clean hydro.

Battery trailers make more sense than swapping, IMO.

It appears to be based on the oxidation of the Aluminum.

The energy is released via a chemical reaction that draws oxygen from the air and uses water fed into the car by the user to turn the aluminum into alumina (similar to the reaction that turns iron into rust)

So using the battery literally destroys it. The aluminum is all still there. So it's not rechargeable at all. It's disposable. They recycle it at the smelter, they don't recharge it. I suspect it will be treated like other car parts and there will be a core charge that you get back for swapping your old battery in.

I've no idea how efficient the process is, that would really be the key question.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47171085)

I've no idea how efficient the process is, that would really be the key question.

Which was basically the question I implied. Then you rambled on about peripheral stuff, and re-asked.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171223)

Aluminium recycle is one of the most efficient ones. Aluminium is hard to create from bauxite, but once extracted, is very easy to recicle. (Low energies compared to other metals).

Also I think that recyclic from alumina (Aluminium oxide, which is the byproduct) is even easier.

So they are not disposable, they are true rechargable, but not by a common mean. Sure, you can also dispose the alumina to be recycled locally and buy new ones. This will have the same CO2 footprint. But I'm sure they will offer you a discount for the interchange.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (4, Informative)

fnj (64210) | about 7 months ago | (#47171359)

So what do you think bauxite (aluminum ore) is? It's a mixture of aluminum hydroxides and aluminum oxide hydroxides, with iron oxides, clay, and titanium dioxide as contaminants. Essentially the discharged battery will yield an unusually pure form of bauxite.

Recycling ALUMINUM is just melting scrap aluminum metal so it can be refabricated into new aluminum products. As such, yes, it is arelatively low energy process.

Electrolyzing BAUXITE into aluminum, on the other hand, is extremely energy intensive. Changing bauxite (aluminum+oxygen+hydrogen) into separate components is quite like changine water (hydrogen+oxugen) into separate components. In each case, the elements "want" to be combined. Separating them requires vast amounts of electrioc energy.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#47171141)

Well, how inefficient does the process have to be before it doesn't make sense? Transportation generally is a high value use of energy and this battery pack would fill an important niche, enabling electric cars to travel more than a few hundred miles a day.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47171217)

Well, how inefficient does the process have to be before it doesn't make sense? Transportation generally is a high value use of energy and this battery pack would fill an important niche, enabling electric cars to travel more than a few hundred miles a day.

This not just a niche, range is a key element to electric car mass adoption. Efficiency is proportional to cost. Cost matters.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#47171435)

Well, I did say the niche was important. And cost isn't the only factor.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170877)

I guess that's how they turn the alumuna back into Aluminium? What are the economics of shipping 100 Kg blocks of metal back to to the smelter? How much will it cost to recycle the metal? How much spare smelting capacity does an average smelter have?

It would be great if the numbers all add up - but I think hydrogen fuel cells as backup for the Lithium Ion batteries is a better bet, or maybe it's the other way around?

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (5, Funny)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#47170959)

I've learned quite a bit about smelting from playing Elder Scrolls Online. And so I feel qualified to say that smelting is actually very straightforward. Just go to a blacksmith station, open up your refine menu and add your ore, press the refine key, and you're done!

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 months ago | (#47171143)

I don't know what kind of connections you have, but man, they wouldn't let me near the place. Something about safety, needing an escort, and some other BS about whom my point of contact is. I told them what I needed to do, but they started to raise their voice and get hostile. One of the guys even threatened the police if I didn't leave. WTF??!! Just let me walk in there and press the refine button.

The world is just too damn complicated. Fuck it, I'm grabbing another bag of Cheetos some Mt. Dew and heading back home to do this shit the easy way.

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (0)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47171395)

what kind of 'ore do you use? A dominatrix or submissive 'ore?

Re:haha. they call if "charging the battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171411)

Yeah, but its "sustainable energy"! (Since smelting aluminium takes no energy what so ever.

Automatic swap (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170801)

With an automatic swap system on gas stations, it might provide an instant refuelling, something impossible with fixed lithium batteries currently. Possibly it might make sense to standarise such a swapping machine, and a respective battery compartment, before multiple standards arise -- one machine for a hydrogen cell, aluminium battery etc.

Re: Automatic swap (2)

AvitarX (172628) | about 7 months ago | (#47170835)

I'm all for standards, but I don't think battery shape, size, and placement for a car is a good thing to standardize. Too limiting for design I'd predict.

Re: Automatic swap (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 7 months ago | (#47170851)

If it's a 15 minute change out at any garage with a lift, it's a potential alternative to renting a car for a long trip.

Re: Automatic swap (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 7 months ago | (#47170891)

Or ditch batteries altogether and fill a tank of hydrogen and run the electric car off a fuel cell.

Re: Automatic swap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170969)

I am not sure, if new systems would allow for "filling a tank" of such a substance as hydrogen on a gas station. Hydrogen in a cell must be either very cool or very pressurised. It might turn out to be much safer to store extra-durable hydrogen cartridges, instead of a giant tank that requires pouring of hydrogen into cars.

Re: Automatic swap (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 7 months ago | (#47171067)

Do you have any idea how big of a fuel cell you would need to run a car? Forget the issues with hydrogen, why would you want to convert to electric then to mechanical motion? Yea it's more efficient use of the hydrogen but it's also a ton of weight and volume.

Re: Automatic swap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170919)

This is what I would aim for, easily done for a mechanic, to switch between long and short trip batteries.

Perhaps a few sizes/shapes then, with arbitrary locations, and easy enough access.

Of course, there's a decent chance the need for long vs short trip batteries will go away before electric cars really take off anyway.

I hope a couple car companies partner with these guys so that it's possible to get ready for a longer trip. I wouldn't mind one as a back-up battery built into cars either, so that instead of an 80 mile range, there's a 40 mile one, with a few hundred back-up miles if needed (depending on what the final cost per mile is for one of these).

Re: Automatic swap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171183)

I wouldn't mind one as a back-up battery built into cars either, so that instead of an 80 mile range, there's a 40 mile one, with a few hundred back-up miles if needed (depending on what the final cost per mile is for one of these).

If your back-up is more powerful than your primary then you're doing it wrong.

Re: Automatic swap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170875)

A common swapping system like that would not necessarily imply a common battery shape/size. It might merely be a common hatch and/or slide system, a standarised visual mark on the car to be recognised by the machine's camera, a digital interface to infer battery type etc.

Re: Automatic swap (1)

netwiz (33291) | about 7 months ago | (#47170931)

Exactly since when have auto manufacturers standardized on anything? Go to AutoZone. Look at the oil filters. There are literally dozens, and that's a pretty common part. Hell, there's not even such a thing as a standard oil. Manufacturers have _never_ created a standard part, everything is unique by brand and model, and I just don't see this being any different. Exactly how large a battery are we talking here? Maybe, if the range was 5000km, it might be useful, because that's about the range of a severe-duty oil change interval, but I guarantee that it won't be as cheap as an oil change.

Re: Automatic swap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171281)

Tire valves are pretty much universal.

Re: Automatic swap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170965)

Gas stations have several pumps for different types of energy.
While it would be nice to have it automated it is clearly viable to let the driver chose between a couple of alternatives manually.

Re:Automatic swap (1)

beefoot (2250164) | about 7 months ago | (#47171235)

How about battery swapping drones flying along major highway. If you need a sway, just wave at them.

Re:Automatic swap (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47171401)

yep, waving at them while driving will make you sway..

Getting better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170823)

Well, the technology is getting better, but it's still not there. And why does tiny little war torn israel always seem to have cutting edge technology but we can't make OR EVEN BUY the technology here in the U.S.?

Re:Getting better (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170887)

Isreal wish to strategically extract themselves (and everyone else) from oil dependence for obvious reasons. The US government (read: energy companies) does not have the same goal.

Getting better (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about 7 months ago | (#47171113)

I wouldn't call a disposable aluminum battery the "cutting edge" of technology.

Re:Getting better (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 7 months ago | (#47171155)

Well, the technology is getting better, but it's still not there. And why does tiny little war torn israel always seem to have cutting edge technology but we can't make OR EVEN BUY the technology here in the U.S.?

Maybe the billions of dollars that the US gives them has something to do with it?

Re: Getting better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171387)

This: Tesla is a 100% American car and technology company. Fairly innovative company, no?

3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Joey Vegetables (686525) | about 7 months ago | (#47170843)

When I worked in one inner suburb of a medium-sized city, and lived in another, I commuted about 50km each way, 100km in total, and hence 3000km over the course of a little over a month. Commutes 3-4 times that long are not unheard of in larger cities. But for me, would have meant a battery swap about 10 times a year. I don't know how long the swap should take, but I do know I would not have time to visit a dealer - the closest being about a half hour away - anywhere near that frequently, even if it were a short and painless process.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170873)

Classic first-world problems... God forbid you should ever have to look after a horse, dude.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 7 months ago | (#47171049)

Horses are largely self maintaining, throw a bail of hay out or give them a pasture and water you're good most of the time. Of course there's usual vet visits and horse shoes etc. but A horse doesn't need a set of shoes every month. They also have limited range and emissions problems. Also when they truly come to end of life, it takes a lot of effort to clean up the mess.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

slack_justyb (862874) | about 7 months ago | (#47170879)

Agreed. My job has me driving roughly 2500km a week. Plus for the addition of 100kg, having ~3000km stored in a non-user rechargeable, isn't a good trade. 100kg is a serious increase for an electric car, it needs to have a better justification.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

manu144x (3377615) | about 7 months ago | (#47170973)

100 kg? Do you know the weight of an V6 ICE engine? Transmission? 4x4 systems? 100 kg is not that much...

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171007)

You just named 3 things an electric car isn't going to have.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47171427)

how about a 100kg passenger, a lot of adult males are near that weight

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

rogerrabit (2885897) | about 7 months ago | (#47171197)

You sure about that? I mean, Having to stop at the "electric station" not even once a week seems like a pretty good deal in your situation. Of course it depends on the cost and duration of the battery change.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170901)

The suggestion was that this would work in tandem with lithium-ion:

"[...]the car would still rely on its regular rechargable lithium-ion battery most of the time and would switch to the aluminum-air battery as a backup only if the lithium-ion battery ran out"

Drive it like a normal electric and you'd never use aluminium at all. Whether it's worth lugging 100kg around in that case is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (4, Funny)

AGMW (594303) | about 7 months ago | (#47170905)

Damn. Yeah, good point. Shame really, 'cos them Israeli boffins have been working so hard on it and now they've got to just stop and do something else 'cos your commute is too long. You know, I bet they're kicking themselves for not asking you about your commute first 'cos they could've saved themselves the bother!
PAH! 3000km! 3000 schkilometers I say! Not to menschion we don't even have any kilometers in the US anyway.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170981)

Heck yea! Let's not think about cost of efficiency cause that stuff will drag you down man! Rationally looking at something? NAWWWWW! Let's just give this company a grant for a billion or so because they have a battery that they say can do something. Sounds sound to me!

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#47171041)

I'm wondering who would really bother with it though. 260 miles from a Tesla battery and 50 minute charge time covers 99% of use cases, and is going to be much more convenient than going to a dealer to have the battery replaced every every 3000 miles.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 months ago | (#47171257)

This isn't meant to replace that, it's meant to augment it. Most of the time, the 260 mile range is fine. Sometimes, it isn't, and this gives you an emergency reserve. In normal use, you'll never use it, but if you're planning a long trip and don't manage to get to a charging station anywhere in the middle then you're not going to be stuck miles from civilisation with an empty battery.

3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170945)

RTFA and redo your math: "The spent batteries would be replaced with charged batteries during a "quick operation" at a local service station.
Because the car would still rely on its regular rechargable lithium-ion battery most of the time and would switch to the aluminum-air battery as a backup only if the lithium-ion battery ran out, and because most car trips are 50 kilometres or less, Alcoa estimates the aluminum-air batteries would only need to be changed about once a year"

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (3, Informative)

guises (2423402) | about 7 months ago | (#47170993)

No... a 50 km commute could easily be handled by your lithium battery. So you would need zero of these per year of that's all that you were doing. This is a range extender - a way to shut up all those people who keep complaining that the 300 mile range of the Model S is just unacceptable. You don't even need a Model S though, you'd do just fine in a Leaf.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171037)

OK, it doesn't work for you. Luckily there are alternatives.

New technology doesn't stand or fall with being usable for everyone. It just needs to be the best option for a large enough group of people.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (2)

c (8461) | about 7 months ago | (#47171043)

When I worked in one inner suburb of a medium-sized city, and lived in another, I commuted about 50km each way, 100km in total, and hence 3000km over the course of a little over a month.

It's an add-on to a pure-electric car to extend the range. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is rated at at least 120km/charge. So, in theory you'd never actually draw on this magic battery for your daily driving. It'd only be if you had longer trips or weren't able to plug in one night, etc.

The average commute in North America is well within the range of a plug-in electric vehicle, and this thing is just icing/insurance. There's going to be outliers, but if we routinely killed ideas because they didn't work for 100% of possible scenarios, we'd still be shivering naked in caves (fur being too darned hot for those in warmer climates...)

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (2)

Joey Vegetables (686525) | about 7 months ago | (#47171071)

OK, sorry, my fault for not carefully RTFA. I did not mention that while my family and I do drive a great deal, almost all of it is within 75km of home. This *plus* a standard battery probably handles my situation, plus the occasional longer road trip, just fine.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171149)

Not that much in Europe either. At my current usage pattern i would run out every 3 weeks or so. Not looking forward to having to pay some guy $80 a hour once every 3 weeks to "charge" my battery.

Read the Article! (5, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 7 months ago | (#47171163)

When I worked in one inner suburb of a medium-sized city, and lived in another, I commuted about 50km each way, 100km in total, and hence 3000km over the course of a little over a month.

I know it is Slashdot and the summary is misleading about it "adding 100kg over a Tesla battery" but if you actually read the article you would learn that the idea is not to replace the existing Li-ion battery but to have this as well as a reserve. As you point out most people only drive short trips for which a Li-ion battery is well suited. This is just to provide a power for long distance driving.

However, depending on the cost, since this battery is only 100 kg and the current Tesla battery is 500kg you could imagine completely replacing the Li-ion battery with five of these and having a 15,000 km range which would probably do most people for the best part of a year. This would only work if it is cheap to replace compared to the cost of a Li-ion battery which lasts for 100,000 km and costs $30k. So assuming the cost of electricity to recharge the Li-ion palances with the installation costs of the multiple aluminium battery packs you would require, the cost per aluminium battery would need to be $900. The cost of 100 kg of aluminium (which seems to be the principle component) is $180 for 100 kg so this does not rule out such a price.

Sadly the killer for this, and all electric cars, is that assuming an internal combustion car uses 6l/100km of petrol the price of petrol would need to reach $5/litre before it became more expensive than the cost of battery or about a factor 4 higher than it currently is in Canada. Still give it a few more years of declining battery costs and increasing oil prices and we will finally be there!

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 7 months ago | (#47171171)

When I worked in one inner suburb of a medium-sized city, and lived in another, I commuted about 50km each way, 100km in total, and hence 3000km over the course of a little over a month. Commutes 3-4 times that long are not unheard of in larger cities. But for me, would have meant a battery swap about 10 times a year. I don't know how long the swap should take, but I do know I would not have time to visit a dealer - the closest being about a half hour away - anywhere near that frequently, even if it were a short and painless process.

They aren't talking about this battery being the primary power source, but supplementing the lithium batteries to extend the range. While the lithium batteries can be recharged, these batteries are consumed in the process and have to be reprocessed. So, If your lithium batteries get you 95km each day, then you would only use 5km from the aluminum battery.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171361)

According to the article, the car isn't meant to use the 3k battery as its primary energy source; it's still meant to use its onboard Lithium batteries, but switch over if the primaries run out. The normal batteries would normally last between 150-250 km between full charges; normally, the car wouldn't even touch the aluminium battery.

This is the source of the 'once a year' figure.

Re:3000km is not a lot in the U.S. . . . . (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 7 months ago | (#47171417)

That is if you only run on the new battery type but that not the plan, only use it for long trips and use the lithium as normal which would be fine for your commute

~220 pounds.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170861)

~220 pounds for those that don't want to look up the conversion.

That's cheap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170921)

Only about $375? Great!

Public transport (2)

should_be_linear (779431) | about 7 months ago | (#47170863)

This is great for public transport. Changing units every 3000 Km is non-issue there. Vehicles are in the garage over night anyway...

Re:Public transport (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47171031)

Until they tell us the expected cost, which is conveniently omitted, I'm gonna assume its not "great" for anything.

If vehicles can be charged every night, it is less likely they would this technology to start with. For public transportation, its easy to plan around range.

I could see some military applications, where they want a long range electric vehicle for certain types of missions, ready to go without a gas supply. Cost is usually less of a factor that functionality for these applications.

Re:Public transport (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 months ago | (#47171263)

Public transport is already easy to do with conventional batteries. Between overhead power lines and induction charging at bus stops, there are ample opportunities to top up the batteries during the day.

Not ideal (1)

netwiz (33291) | about 7 months ago | (#47170889)

At 3000km, that's shorter than even a severe-duty oil change interval. One long trip and it's done. Seriously, say I wanted to drive from Dallas to Las Vegas; the battery lasts just long enough to get me there in one shot. Sure, the rechargable pack lasts long enough for the short drives once I'm there, but the return trip is going to suck with the repeated stops for recharging, especially with the lack of SuperCharger stations along the way. So by the end of 2015 I'll be able to make it, according to Tesla, but what do I do until then? I suppose if I can afford a Model S I'm probably affluent enough to pick up a plane ticket instead?

This "battery swap" is going to be nowhere near cheap, and we're talking about adding 220lbs to an already relatively porky sedan. I think I like my chances with next-gen rechargables better than this.

Re:Not ideal (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#47171237)

Dallas to Las Vegas would require about two thirds of the battery.

Re:Not ideal (1)

fodder69 (701416) | about 7 months ago | (#47171425)

Oh, you're right, you found a situation that it isn't ideal for. Forget it, just throw in the towel, it won't work for this guy to go blow money in Las Vegas so let's just forget the whole idea.

And 220lbs? I bet you have relatives heavier than that so subtract one passenger.

And what next-gen rechargable are we waiting for that is going to be perfect for this use case?

So same weight as a small engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47170903)

Sounds like a disposable battery and a horribly energy inefficient way to extend the range.
Moving batteries back to the manufacturer when discharged and probable an insane amount of energy to reuse.
For 100 KG I'd rather add a small engine / generator.

A battery that the user can't recharge themselves (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 months ago | (#47170929)

and needs swapping and "charging" in a factory sounds very much like a non-rechargeable battery.

With that concept, you could very easily have electric cars powered with a very large number of alcaline batteries, and "charging stations" in which you change the alcaline batteries.

Summary wrong about weigth (-1)

openfrog (897716) | about 7 months ago | (#47170947)

Summary says:
"The battery would add about 100 kg to an existing Tesla car's battery weight."

The article summarized says:
"According to Tzidon, the new battery technology can store enough energy to take a car 3,000 kilometres with 100 kilograms of aluminum-air batteries. For comparison, the Tesla Model S battery is estimated to be more than 500 kilograms."

Sigh...

Re:Summary wrong about weigth (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 7 months ago | (#47170987)

They are both correct, since the assumption is that you do not remove the existing battery, you just temporarily add the AI battery.

Unsigh!

Re:Summary wrong about weigth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171053)

Although untypical for Slashdot the summary is right:

The article summarized says:
"The car would still rely on its regular rechargable lithium-ion battery most of the time and would switch to the aluminum-air battery as a backup only if the lithium-ion battery ran out"

So you need to add the weight of this battery to the weight of the existing batteries.

Re:Summary wrong about weigth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171131)

Do you really have that much of a reading comprehension problem? Slashdot is becoming a sad joke. Just so quick to want to poke a hole in something that you come on all gangbusters and end up looking like a total fool.
 
Sigh...

3,000 km? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171013)

Either that's one long battery, or one long car. Either way, sounds pretty useless.

This is a great idea (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 7 months ago | (#47171025)

I suppose it depends how environmentally friendly it is to make / recycle this aluminium battery, how safe it is, how reliable it is and how much dealers charge to replace one with another. But in principle it's a good idea.

I bet a lot of potential EV owners are put off range anxiety - that idea that every once in a while they'll have to do a really long trip and they can't because the battery won't take them far enough and will take hours to recharge. Probably the rest of the time they only need the battery power to do 30-100 miles between charges. If cars carried less batteries then they'd cost less, weigh less and be more efficient too. The backup might last some people years before it was fully used up but its there if they need it.

And how do we recycle (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 7 months ago | (#47171105)

All these toxic batteries we are creating?

Re:And how do we recycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171195)

Alumina is not toxic and can be recycled back to Aluminium, at a much much lower energy. Aluminium from ore is kind of expensive, but can be recycled infinitely and very cheaply. So it's the perfect metal for this.
Don't know about the catalizer, but I presume will be a small amount on each battery.

Re:And how do we recycle (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 7 months ago | (#47171241)

They are recycled. That's a main part of the plan. When you have a new one installed the old one is send back to the factory.
Aluminium-air batteries aren't all that toxic. The main problem is that they are single use only. However, for the once or twice a year 300+ km trip that is not a problem. You add them to your current car if you have a longer trip that the normal battery can't do.

Only 1600km, not 3000 (0)

Josh Harding (3582339) | about 7 months ago | (#47171213)

As we should all expect, the summary is wrong. The article states that the Al battery can "extend" the range of the car by 1600km... and note that they're careful to say it can't drive a car 1600km, you still have to have a Li-ion battery too.

Re:Only 1600km, not 3000 (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about 7 months ago | (#47171293)

Wrong. It is 1600km for the battery fitted to the car in question, it is 3000km for 100kg of battery. They did not specify the size of battery fitted to the car that had it's range extended by 1600km but a bit of mathematics suggests around 54kg. Your reading comprehension is really rather poor.

Visit the dealership every 3000km ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171231)

Consider this idea dead.

That sounds pretty heavy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171255)

USA USA!

Aluminum cycle fuel cell? (1)

swb (14022) | about 7 months ago | (#47171273)

Wasn't there some professor who had mostly perfected a fuel cell based on some kind of aluminum cycle?

'Carbon footprint'? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 7 months ago | (#47171305)

For starters: I am not all that impressed. They're dressing this up as 'rechargable', when in fact it is emphatically not so, this is a 'primary' battery, not a rechargable 'secondary' battery, and 'recharging' it in this context is just new-speak for 'recycling' it.

OK, let's put that aside for a moment. The real questions are:
1) What is the estimated, large-scale, ultimate carbon footprint of using this battery technology? Is it better or worse than Li+ technologies? If it's about the same or worse then maybe we'd better think twice about this.
2) What is the estimated ongoing cost to the end-user/consumer assuming it became the standard for electric vehicles and as such proliferated throughout the market? If the cost every few months (or sooner, for heavy drivers of their vehicles) is excessive then it's just not practical from a fiscal point of view.
3) For both the above, assume that the technology would be, generously enough, licensed immediately (or at least soon) to 3rd party companies, or better yet (perfect world) made open-source and/or royalty-free (because the creators/backers are such humanitarians, LOL) for the betterment of all mankind.
4) Now that #3 has got the rose-colored-glasses perspective out of the way, let's assume they're greedy bastards who aggressively enforce any patents they have on the technology, and only allow companies that pay licensing fees/royalties to recycle the battery packs, vehicle owners are only allowed to get swaps at 'authorized facilities', etc., and the cost naturally is passed along to the consumer.

Needless to say I'm somewhat leery of technology like this. Part of me wants to say it sounds like a step backwards. Here's another question:
5) How much aluminum is lost (percentage estimate?) per cycle of this type of battery? Questions 1 through 4 aside, is it really long-term practical from a technical standpoint, or is it wasteful of raw materials, turning aluminum into a non-usable waste product?

Does not compute (0)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about 7 months ago | (#47171319)

The plant uses hydro-electric power to charge up the battery, which would then need a tap-water refill every few months, and a swap (ideally at a local dealership) every 3,000km, since it cannot be recharged as simply as Lithium.

I don't get it. It needs a tap water refill every few months, but needs to be swapped out entirely every month? I drive more than 3000km every month. How is this supposed to be practical? Is this geared towards people that don't drive much at all? Even then, the battery will likely need to be replaced over 100 times during the life of the car. I suppose as long as the battery swap is as quick, easy, and cheap as fueling up at a gas station, this might work. Otherwise, I'm not sure what they're thinking here.

Units! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47171349)

Suspiciously missing is the KWH equivalent of the battery and the peak and continuous load current rating of the battery.

It's impossible to determine the real world specs of this "battery" without those.

They sound like they might be great for standby power/emergency applications--though I suspect they have a shelf life even if not used--any air that gets in will "run" the battery.

Supplement instead of replace (1)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | about 7 months ago | (#47171397)

What if an electric car would have a space for this battery and a driver would only install this type of battery when going on a long drive (i.e., supplement the existing Li battery infrastructure instead of replacing it)??? That way you would have the best of both worlds, quick charging lithium batteries for short trips and alum. battery for long trips. Yes, the downside is more space reserved for batteries instead of cargo, but I think I would be willing to work with that... I can easily see installing this battery right before a long trip and returning it after the trip is finished.

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