It sounds about as plausible as a nuclear powered road car hitting the market next year, yet the idea of actually being able to top up the battery pack in your EV, much like a conventional car with gasoline, perhaps isn’t as far fetched as you might think.
A startup called EOS Energy Storage is conducting research into a zinc/air hybrid flow battery system that would essentially require filling up with electrolyte to replenish energy.
Although batteries contain an anode, cathode and electrolyte to store energy, for zinc batteries, a chemical reaction is caused by the zinc ions traveling through the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode, which enables electrons to be harvested. As a result EOS says that these harvested electrons with zinc dissolved in them could be pumped out and fresh electrolyte containing zinc could be poured in, replenishing energy and thus essentially creating a “new” battery. And how would you pump out and pour in electrolyte? Well via a filling station of course.
Yes the idea remains very much theoretical and in the early stages at that, though EOS says that an EV that uses this technology could have a range of 400 miles and take just three minutes to charge. It also says that by incorporating hybrid-flow battery technology, the unit cost per vehicle could be around $25,000.
Sounds too good to be true? Perhaps, yet despite the tremendous hurdles such a concept presents, namely overcoming technological barriers and developing the required infrastructure, EOS is already taking baby steps by developing a zinc air power grid battery designed to provide low cost energy storage. This battery is said to be able to last up to 30 years and costs $160 per kwh. EOS says it’s planning to commercialize its first product by 2014 and if successful, who knows where things might go from there.