Well, here’s a novel idea for electric-car fans to kick off the week with.
Zero-emission cars powered by electric motors shouldn’t use batteries that can be recharged, because a public charging network is “a dead end.”
Instead, they should use flow-cell batteries that can be “refueled” in minutes at centralized filling stations.
DON’T MISS: ‘Flow Cells’ May Let Electric Cars Recharge With Liquid Refills (Jun 2011)
This somewhat unusual thought, not surprisingly, comes from a company that proposes to build and sell vehicles with such batteries at some point in the future.
The “dead end” quote is part of a longer statement by Nunzio La Vecchia, the Chief Technology Officer of NanoFlowcell Holdings, and inventor of the NanoFlowcell technology for energy storage.
It’s contained in a blog post, Full Speed Ahead Up a Dead End, on the NanoFlowcell website.
Flow-cell battery prototype developed by Harvard University
It starts by noting sales of electric cars have not met projections, and goes on to suggest that the current model of battery-electric vehicles and public and private charging stations is “close to collapse.”
“Nobody wants to drive these vehicles,” La Vecchia writes, because a comprehensive global network of public charging stations “supported by billions in grants (tax money)” doesn’t yet exist.
The alternative scenario offered by NanoFlowcell uses what it claims is a “shoebox-sized” flow cell and two tanks, with a total capacity of 150 liters (about 40 gallons) of positive and negative liquid electrolytes.
ALSO SEE: New Quant Flow-Cell Car Concepts Arrive, Still Dodgy On Details (Mar 2015)
They react inside the flow cell to produce electricity that powers electric motors to turn the wheels, just as in a battery-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell car.
The technology, the company writes, compares to an “incredibly heavy lithium-ion battery pack” weighing 700 kg (about 1,500 pounds).
It would require a network of fueling stations, but the company suggests it could easily be retrofitted to existing gas and diesel stations, especially since the bismuth-ion electrolytes are not combustible.
Fueling station with twin-nozzle pump for bismuth-ion electrolyte solutions [NanoFlowcell]
And the stations could produce the electrolyte locally—using principles of decentralized production known, it says, “since way before Coca-Cola.”
The challenges of setting up any new fueling infrastructure are those presently faced by hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle proponents.
The technology for viable fuel-cell cars now clearly exists—as proven by Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota—and they run with water as their only emission.
CHECK OUT: Quant Limousine With Flow-Cell Battery Tech Begins German Road Trials (Jul 2014)
Three challenges exist in propagating emission-free vehicles that run on hydrogen.
They are the cost and complexity of building high-pressure hydrogen fueling stations anywhere a driver is likely to want to travel; the relative cost per mile of hydrogen versus gasoline and electricity; and the wells-to-wheels carbon footprint per mile of vehicles running on hydrogen versus those using grid electricity.
The NanoFlowcell post doesn’t go into those details, but operates more as a statement of principle.
“The refueling infrastructure for [the electrolytes] is considerably easier, faster and more cost effective to build,” the article summarizes. “It adds up to just a fraction of the infrastructure costs of current electric mobility scenarios.”
Despite some phrasing that bears the mark of having been translated into English from another language—NanoFlowcell is incorporated in Lichtenstein—it’s worth reading as another alternative to the century-old gasoline combustion-engine paradigm.
While NanoFlowcell has shown several concept vehicles at various auto shows, we’re not aware that any journalists have been able to test their cars for any length of time.
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