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Report: Toyota Focusing on Metal-Air Cells for Next-Generation Battery Technology

The Nikkei reports that Toyota’s newly established department for battery research (earlier post) is focusing on metal-air cells as the next-generation battery technology for its vehicles.

In June at Toyota Environmental Forum in Tokyo, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said that the company was setting out to develop an innovative next-generation battery that far outperforms lithium-ion batteries.

Watanabe was referring to what’s known as a metal-air battery, according to Toyota Executive Vice-President Masatami Takimoto. In this type of battery, electricity is generated by a reaction between oxygen in the air and a metal like zinc at the negative electrode. The battery does not require the use of a combustible liquid electrolyte, so there is no danger of ignition as is the case with lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, an air battery has over fives times the energy-storage capacity of a similarly-sized lithium-ion battery...It may take some time before air batteries reach the practical stage, but Toyota believes that they will ultimately become the next-generation battery technology of choice.

...Toshiba Battery Co. has conducted research on air batteries for many years and knows their weak spot: they don’t perform well when made in large sizes. Because of this experience the company has no current plans to develop air-batteries for cars. However, the company acknowledges the large latent potential. “If the performance can be improved they could end up finding use in a wide range of applications (including cars),” agreed Teiji Okayama of the technology development department.

Toyota founded a chair for research on advanced batteries at Kyoto University, and will carry out research in collaboration with chair professor Koji Nishio.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Stuart Licht at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, recently published a paper on the development of a vanadium boride (VB2)/air cell that offers an order of magnitude higher energy capacity than lithium-ion batteries. (Earlier post.)

Comments

Herm

Where did you come up with 600lbs?.. In any case, gas stations along the highways would sell the power cassettes in manageable sizes, lets say 20lbs or so.

So for the couple of times a year that you need more than a 40 mile range there is your solution, and no messing or maintaining an ICE.

Regarding security, what prevents people from stealing gas from cars or gas stations now?

So far it all depends on cost.

Herm

I would be willing to pay up to 4 times the gas equivalent for these cassettes.. with a couple of conditions:

1. they can sit partially discharged for a long time without degradation.
2. and they are standard and readily available everywhere.. just selling them at walmart would do, there is a walmart everywhere.

I imagine they would also be popular for portable power during emergencies or at the beach ect.. who wants to lug a heavy messy generator around.

Methanol fuel cells, you would have to deal with the poison danger somehow.. perhaps the methanol comes in a cartridge so that you never are exposed to it.. or adulterated in such a way that it would not damage the fuel cell.

Treehugger

Herm

0.2 Kwh/Miles ~ 2 pounds (for 200WHrs/Kg Zn/air) / miles then 300 miles = 600 pounds, right ?

you need more than 40 miles only a couple time a years ? seems than a lot of people drive more than 40 miles a day

arnold

Good point Herm,
If these things Zinc air or Vanadium Boride applications run on chemical reaction some way to preserve the reagents from degradation may be necessary. Or the 'battery will run to depletion. The control mechanism may be complicated or heavy.
We seem stuck with no overall efficiency estimates for the life cycle which is not good. On the other hand I can't recall ever seeing the embodied energy in old hydrocarbons expressed in this way - not good either
Darius I think you have something interesting to say, but the way you put it is unclear.
Remember hat any such chemical storage cell outputs to an existing electric motor and so large weight savings are likely no matter how heavily built the casing.

Poll you are in over my head but I'm not the fastest kid on he block. The issue you seem to have is over the weight penalty.
While it makes sense that VB salts weigh more than hydrocarbs per liter and that any anode, and case construction is likely weighs more than a pressed steel gas tank. Do you see that a robust engineered vessel in this Hybrid ice or? application still eliminates the entire ICE set.

arnold

Treehugger,
If the battery weighs slightly more than twice gasoline, but electrical efficiency runs much beyond 80% then I guess the energy / Kg will about cancel because the gasoline vehicle will reduce its payload.

Andy

Arnold, without reading their write-up that was my guess.

mds

TreeHugger,
78% of USA drivers, 90% of Israeli drivers travel less than 40 miles per day. Significant portion of these drivers might choose to own BEV for commuting, especially if they're freeway capable, like Aptera. Many already use NEVs with much lower performance. Think E-REV is better bet than BEV in USA. Really don't understand why all BEV developers don't offer E-REV option.

Metal-air for E-REV (Series-PHEV) range extender? Wish I'd thought of that. Will depend on cost/convenience relative to small ICE generator, turbine generator, or fuel cell. Another design/development option can only be a good thing.

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