New Refillable Batteries For Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but their long charging times and the scarcity of charging stations can make life hard for the eco-conscious motorists who drive them.

Now help may be on the horizon. Scientists are working to develop refillable, or so-called flow, batteries that can be refueled in minutes at a vast network of converted gas stations.

Electric vehicle advocates are extremely excited about so-called “refillable batteries” — lithium ion cells which, when the electrolyte that powers them gets depleted, can be refilled with freshly-charged liquid instead of getting charged in-situ. The result: an electric car that can be refilled at a pump.

Eric Nauman, professor in mechanical engineering and in basic medical sciences and co-founder of IFBattery, and Michael Dziekan, senior engineer for IFBattery, run tests on a membrane-free, flow battery being used to power a golf cart. The battery has the potential to generate enough energy to drive an electric car up to 3,000 miles.

“You drive 300 miles, drain your tank and pump in new [liquid] — as long as it would take to fill your car with gasoline — and drive off,” says John Cushman, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and mathematics at Purdue and a leading researcher on liquid battery technology.

Like the lithium-ion batteries that power most electric vehicles on the road today, flow batteries release energy through chemical reactions between the ends of the battery and a substance known as electrolyte. In a lithium-ion battery, the electrolyte sits between the ends of the battery; when it’s depleted, it has to be recharged.

In a flow battery, the electrolyte is pumped from a tank through the battery; when it’s depleted, it can simply be swapped out for a fresh batch.

Modern flow batteries have been around since the 1980s. Their long lifespans and easy recharging mean they’re well suited for large-scale energy storage. But they’ve always been too big and too heavy for use in vehicles.

No matter what, it’s unclear when flow battery-powered vehicles might come to market.

Reference- NBC News, Futurism