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Could ‘instantly rechargeable’ batteries revolutionise electric cars?Back

The number of people buying electric cars rose by nearly 47 per cent last month but many motorists are still put off by the time it takes to charge the vehicles.

Now, US researchers have developed an “instantly rechargeable” method for electric and hybrid vehicle batteries, which is similar to refueling a car at a petrol station.

The innovation by scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, could speed up the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles by eliminating the time needed to stop and re-charge a conventional electric car’s battery and dramatically reducing the need for new infrastructure to support re-charging stations.

Prof John Cushman, who co-founded Ifbattery, said: “Electric and hybrid vehicle sales are growing worldwide and the popularity of companies like Tesla is incredible, but there continues to be strong challenges for industry and consumers of electric or hybrid cars.

“The biggest challenge for industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle. The greatest hurdle for drivers is the time commitment to keeping their cars fully charged.”

What is the technology?

An energy storage system that enables drivers to fill up their electric or hybrid vehicles with fluid electrolytes to re-energize spent battery fluids much like refueling their petrol tanks.

How does it work?

“Instead of refining petroleum, the refiners would reprocess spent electrolytes and instead of dispensing gas, the fueling stations would dispense a water and ethanol or methanol solution as fluid electrolytes to power vehicles,” says Prof Cushman.

“Users would be able to drop off the spent electrolytes at gas stations, which would then be sent in bulk to solar farms, wind turbine installations or hydroelectric plants for reconstitution or re-charging into the viable electrolyte and reused many times.”

What makes Ifbattery unique?

According to Mike Mueterthies, co-founder of Ifbattery, it’s the flow battery system. “Other flow batteries exist, but we are the first to remove membranes which reduces costs and extends battery life,” he says.

Advantages

The technology would eliminate the need for massive infrastructure development to design and build a network of recharging stations. Battery electric vehicles are powered with electricity stored in a battery pack, which in turn operate an electric motor and turn the wheels.
When depleted, the batteries are recharged using grid electricity, which can be done via a wall socket or charging station.

Researchers say their technology could be nearly ‘drop-in’ ready for most of the underground piping system, rail and truck delivery system, gas stations and refineries.

“Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires,” Cushman says. “Ifbattery’s components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements and are cost effective.”

When will the technology reach consumers?

We don’t know. Ifbattery has licensed part of the technology and has developed patents of its own. But it now needs additional finance to build large-scale prototypes and find a manufacturing partner.

Posted by Beth Rose on 05/06/2017