Advanced Batteries ev-fillup

Published on March 8th, 2012 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Next-Gen Batteries Could Be Filled Like Gas Tanks

There are a lot of gripes against electric cars, though two of the most legitimate arguments are the long-recharge time and short range. But what if you could fill up your EV in the same time and manner in which you fill up your gas-powered car? That would be a huge development, one that Eos Energy Storage is working to bring to market.

Eos Energy is promoting a refillable flow battery that uses air as a cathode, zinc as an anode, and a liquid electrolyte. Refilling the battery would require swapping out only the electrolyte solution, which could be recharged and reused at a later time. Theoretically, Eos says their system could be fitted to a standard passenger car costing around $25,000, allowing for a 400-mile range and “recharging” in as little as 3 minutes.

It sounds too good to be true, but Eos isn’t alone in pursuing a refillable liquid battery. However, such a battery is still years away from hitting the market, and while there have been many promising developments in battery technology, nobody has been able to market that “holy grail” EV battery to date. I have faith that it will happen, whether it be a liquid battery like Eos is proposing, or something more traditional, like the lithium-ion cells employed in today’s EV’s.

It’s just a matter of time. Thing is…how long can we afford to wait?

Source: GigaOm | Image: Nate A. via Shutterstock




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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Tim Cleland

    Interesting. This is essentially the draw of fuel cells except it uses hydrogen instead of the zinc solution. A liquid fuel would certainly be nicer than a gaseous one.

  • Uncle B

    Wind turbine, Solar, intermittent electricity used to “create” this fuel, could power even home lighting, and communications systems in down times? Can the excess nuclear power produced at night-time furnish energy to “create” this fuel for cars? Can we carry a spare canister of this “fuel” for longer trips? Watch now for this to be fully discredited by big oil, and corporations with vested interests in the Status Quo.

  • Bob

    This article suggests that the “gas station” would be supplanted by a zinc solution instead of gasoline. I can see it now … “Fill-er up with high test zinc” …

    Just curious, but why isn’t the idea of having universal batteries pursued, so that the equivalent of a gas station (“battery station”?) could just swap out the spent battery with a completely (re)charged battery? This would allow the “battery station” to have to worry about the charge time, not the end user/auto driver (unless they plug in the car at home).

    Would economics support swapping the entire battery instead of battery components (like cathode/anode, or having to wait to “download” a new set of electrons into the spent battery)?

    • http://www.sublimeburnout.com Christopher DeMorro

      @ Bob

      Project Better Place is doing just that, installing swappable charging stations that let you switch out a dead battery for a new one.

      But these batteries are large, complicated devices requiring a larger, more-complicated device to swap them out. We’ll see how Project Better Place does, but I feel like an electrolyte solution that you could fill like a gas tank might be the easiest to stomach for current car drivers.

  • Uncle B

    Apparently, down town Tokyo electric cabs already do switch out batteries! As the vast Pan Eurasian marketplace bids higher in stronger currencies for the scarce and limited world oil supplies, Americans will for economic reasons be driven to Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, and Nuclear, all domestic, all electric sources for energy, and battery cars are the popular extension. Electric bullet trains, daisy chained across America will replace oil intensive jet aircraft and shorter car destinations will naturally result. We seek then, a short hop, personal transportation solution, as America enters the 21 century, relinquishes her Golden Age of the Cheap Oil Era, and forges ahead to this new paradigm.

  • http://www.eosenergystorage.com Steve Hellman

    Please note that the Eos battery would require only an exchange of the fluid electrolyte–decanting the used electrolyte and saving it for recharging and reuse, while ‘refueling’ with fresh electrolyte–but does not require changing the anode (as noted in the article).

    • http://www.sublimeburnout.com Christopher DeMorro

      @ Steve

      Thanks for the clarification.

  • BreathontheWind

    Unlike hydrogen which is “used up” in the process there is some suggtestion that the EOS “fuel” would also be rechargable. For a little more : http://cleantechnica.com/2011/08/26/eos-rechargable-zinc-air-battery-energy-storage-el-dorado/

    • http://www.eosenergystorage.com Steve Hellman

      That is correct. The fuel itself is completely reusable. It is the same electrolyte that is charged and recharged electrically under normal circumstances. But when the length of a trip exceeds the range of the vehicle, that discharged electrolyte can be swapped with charged electrolyte to allow the vehicle to continue operating without having to undergo a time-consuming recharge. The spent electrolyte would be stored in the filling station and recharged at night when electricity is inexpensive, allowing it to be redelivered to a new customer as charged electrolyte the next day. Pretty simple, really. Just complicated to do technically, which is why this technology will be available only in our second generation batteries.

      • BreathontheWind

        The next question is cost. How much will the advantage of an filling up a battery in minutes cost when compared to:
        A a fill up at a gas pump for a petrol vehicle
        B charging a battery vehicle at a public charging station
        C charging off peak at home at night?
        Many technical breakthroughs seem fabulous until measured against the standard of practicality. Given that the technology may be a few years off the competition is likely to be lithium-air batteries with up to 10x the energy density and not the present technology. How will the technology measure up then?

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