So-called “range anxiety” is the biggest — perhaps the only — issue being discussed in the electric-vehicle debate nowadays. Whether it’s a Leaf crapping out at the sixty-mile mark or a Tesla Model S driving in circles around a parking lot to drain the battery for theatrical purposes, electric cars and range potential are linked in the minds of most potential buyers by a true Gordian knot.
If the people at Phinergy are correct, that knot can be sliced by a sword constructed from charged aluminum plates — and the resulting rewards would be spectacular, to say the least.
Gizmag reports on a new electric vehicle concept from Israel’s Phinergy:
“The company’s battery currently consists of 50 aluminum plates, each providing energy for around 20 miles (32 km) of driving. This adds up to a total potential range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km), with stops required only every couple of hundred miles to refill the system with water…
Phinergy claims to have solved the CO2-related premature failure problems seen in other metal-air battery technologies by developing an air electrode with a silver-based catalyst and structure that lets oxygen enter the cell, but blocks out CO2. The result is an air electrode that Phinergy says has an operational lifespan of thousands of hours.
The company says the aluminum plate anodes in its aluminum-air battery have an energy density of 8 kWh/kg, but the batteries are not rechargeable. Once the energy is expended, the plates, which add up to around 55 pounds (25 kg) per battery, need to be replaced. However, the company points out that aluminum is easily recyclable and that swapping the battery out for a fresh one is quicker than recharging.”
Now I’d like to talk about something my mother once said to me. I was sitting in front of our family’s console TV when an advertisement for the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon Miser came on. “50 MPG!” it said in big letters. I was perhaps ten years old at the time.
“If that’s true, it’s incredible,” I opined. My mother looked up from her copy of Songs Of Innocence And Experience or whatever the hell she was reading to bark at me.
“The proper use of the word ‘incredible’ is, literally, in-credible, which is to say, unbelievable, so when you say what you have just said you must mean if it is true, you are too much of a fool to believe the truth.” How I treasure the memory of all the little interactions like that we had every time I forget to visit her in the home*. If you’re reading this, Mom, allow me to say that
if the Phinergy claims are true, they are incredible!
It’s also fair to say that the plates would be incredibly expensive. This isn’t a Better-Place-style swap-out plan. Rather, the plates serve as a known opportunity cost for extended range.
They could be combined with a traditional electric battery arrangement to produce a car that got, say, 300 miles on a charge — but if you needed more, you could just use the plates. There would be a cost to doing so, but it would presumably be less than the cost you would incur by not using the plates.
The practical Israelis probably haven’t considered it, but there would be another aspect to the plate battery that would appeal to Americans — the sheer conspicuous consumption of using the plates whenever you felt like it. Imagine, if you will, the rap songs of the near future:
I’m on a 24 hour
Swappin’ plates cross-country
I encourage you to try it
Im probably just saying that cause I don’t have to buy it
Phinergy supply it, Boy I’m on that fly shit
Don’t try to charge me up, I like runnin’ on E
Swappin out these five-pound plates loike constantly
Hit the Phinergy store and later get served
Crank the A/C with no reservations
Them people passin’ so we smash on em’
Bindin out we keep the plates on deck
Teslas and Leafs with extra charge on deck
Chevy Volt is America’s conflict diamonds
Detroit Electric version of the Lotus Spyder
And so on. Kim Kardashian could be seen ostentatiously leaving the plug for her C-Max Energi or whatever dangling unconnected from her upstairs window before leaving for the morning with a fresh aluminum-plate battery. I’ve forgotten to include the Cadillac ELR in this fantasy, so here goes: Motor Trend will get a free one stacked to the ceiling with batteries to deplete.
Naturally, the most important modern question about batteries — what makes them explode? — has yet to be answered by the Phinergy folks. Still, it’s exciting to consider that the elimination of range anxiety could electrify nearly the entire American fleet, leaving plenty of fuel to run my Porsche 993 in perpetuity. Gets you all charged up, really.
* The phrase “the home” refers to her home. I haven’t found a facility that will take her, to be honest.