A car that can run a 1,000 Km with just drinking water as fuel sounds like science fiction, right? No, it’s true. Log 9 Materials, a Bengaluru-based startup, has developed a metal-air battery that can power an electric car like the Mahindra E2O.
The metal-air battery needs top-ups of drinking water every 300-odd Km, but at 1,000 Km there’s a little more that has to be done. Besides air and water, the battery works with an aluminium-based electrode that degrades every 1,000 km or so into aluminium hydroxide.
The spent plates have to be removed and replaced with fresh aluminium plates – an activity that apparently takes about 15 minutes. That’s much better than having to recharge the car – an activity that takes at least 5 hours – every 100 odd Km.
So does that mean metal-air refuellable batteries are a much better alternative to lithium-ion batteries that most manufacturers are working on? Well, there are challenges.
Log 9 Materials hopes to get its battery into commercial production by 2020, but it has some significant obstacles to overcome. First, is the size of the battery. In this prototype Mahindra E2O the battery occupies the entire rear seat of the car and then some.
The company is working on making it more compact, so that it can fit under the seats of the car. Second, it still needs to work on improving the power density of the battery. That is something the founders think will be achieved within a year.
Once operational, the battery will require aluminium plate replenishing stations (like fuel stations). Cars like the Mahindra E2O will need its plates changed once in 1,000 Km. And every 300 odd Km it will need a top-up with drinking water (not distilled water, just regular potable water).
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