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 Metal-air batteries infographic
Graphic shows the principle of an alumimium-air energy storage device
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SCIENCE

Metal-air batteries

By Duncan Mil

November 28, 2022 - Indian Oil Corp. and Israel’s Phinergy are developing metal-air batteries that capture oxygen in the air and, together with water and aluminium, create a reaction that generates electricity.

The joint venture will display a Tata Tiago electric car powered by an aluminium-air battery at India’s Auto Expo, which runs from January 13-18, 2023.

While lithium-ion batteries have driven the revolution in electric vehicles, lithium is expensive. Meanwhile, alternative technologies such as “metal air,” which combines atmospheric oxygen with metals to generate electricity, are receiving heavy investment in some parts of the world.

In Asia, the Indian Oil Corp. -- the country’s largest oil company -- is betting on aluminium-air (Al-air) batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion.

According to David Mayer, Phinergy’s CEO, “At Auto Expo, we will present for the first time a Tata vehicle powered by Phinergy’s energy system.”

“A battery is an energy tank,” Aviv Tzidon, co-founder and chairman of Phinergy, explains. “Our demonstration model carries an aluminum-air battery that contains 25 kilograms of aluminium.” A pack of four such batteries can release enough energy, via chemical reaction, to drive 3,000km.

In 2021, India produced 24.7 million tonnes of bauxite, the world’s primary source of aluminium, and this metal is cheap. Aluminium plate costs $3.50-$6.50 per kilogram, while battery-grade lithium costs $78.00 per kilogram. But one of the other elements you need as a catalyst in the Al-air cathode is silver, which costs about $670 per kilogram.

While Al-air batteries are not rechargeable, they’re recyclable. India Oil plans to use its 35,000 service stations as swap stations to replace batteries.

Another drawback for Al-air is the corrosion of the aluminium anode by the alkaline potassium hydroxide electrolyte.

However, while a Tesla Model S can get almost 600km on a single charge, an Al-air battery of the same weight could power the car to over 4,300km.

Sources
PUBLISHED: 28/11/2022; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Tata Motors
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