Investors throw $50M at Israeli revolutionary electric car battery
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Photo credit: Phinergy / YouTube

Photo credit: Phinergy / YouTube

Phinergy’s aluminum-air battery could begin an era of zero emissions from cars

Israeli electric car battery company Phinergy announced a $50 million investment round Thursday morning, led by aluminum manufacturer Alcoa with $10 million. It brings Phinergy’s total valuation to $280 million, according to Israeli financial news site Calcalist. Alcoa is the largest aluminum producer in the world with about 59,000 employees.

Phinergy is developing aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries for low-to-zero-carbon emissions systems. Common car batteries utilize stored oxygen in a wide part of the device called the cathode, while Phinergy’s battery siphons oxygen from ambient (common) air and eliminates the need for a bulky cathode. They have already tested their batteries’ workability and efficiency in electric cars in Canadian trials.

Conventional car battery (image, Phinergy)

Conventional car battery (image, Phinergy)

Phinergy's battery (image, Phinergy)

Phinergy’s battery (image, Phinergy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two companies signed a cooperation agreement back in 2013 and have since developed a new heavily-aluminum electric car engine. Both companies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of the aluminum-air battery on a boat at Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland in 2014. A press release about that demo claims the battery gives the boat an extra 25 hours at sea (30 total) as opposed to a mere five.

Phinergy is not the only company producing zinc-air and aluminum-air batteries — Fuji Pigment claimed last year its Al-air batteries could last two weeks and be refilled with water — but the industry faces some hurdles toward widespread market penetration.

While work on improving aluminum-air batteries slowed in the 1980s, Phinergy asserts its technology makes them a feasible option again. Their approach purports that its air electrodes last far longer, are immune to the carbonization that plagued the chemistry of previous battery models, and uses a silver-based catalyst. One issue that still plagues the aluminum-air battery option is that they aren’t rechargeable, though the aluminum oxide the batteries leave behind can be recycled for new cells.

Alcoa has made other deals in the automotive industry. It has recently started manufacturing lighter-weight aluminum parts to replace heavy steel parts in certain Ford models.

Phinergy was founded in 2008 and employs 40 people. They maintain offices in the Israeli cities of Lod and Kadima. The company was founded by CEO Aviv Tzidon. Others in their management team include CTO Derek Tzidon, COO Jonathan Regev and CFO Hemy Tzubary.

For more information about how their technology works, feel free to watch this video.

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Gedalyah Reback

About Gedalyah Reback


Gedalyah Reback is a seasoned writer who has covered the political scene and Middle East for years. He is testing the waters with tech and is extremely funny, good looking, and not single.

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  • Dwane Anderson

    I’m a fan of electric cars, but I don’t think the Al-air battery is worth investing in. The fact that it’s not rechargeable is a deal-breaker. Plus, you have to add water to it periodically. There is no way a non-rechargeable battery is going to compete with Li-ion batteries, much less other advanced rechargeable battery chemistries. It’s just too inconvenient. You could use it as a range extender, but a reusable device, such as a generator or fuel cell, will still be more convenient. And continuing development of the main batteries will eventually make range extenders pointless.

    • I don’t think that non-rechargeability is a deal breaker for using the Phinergy in electric cars.

      One can imagine a scenario where you have a 50-80 km, rechargeable Li-ion battery in the EV for typical in-city usage and a Phinergy extender for long-distance travel. Just like the BMW i3, where you can buy it with a gas range-extender.

      I would make the Phinergy stack easily replaceable (modular, module weight is maximum 7 kg) and small enough so that they can be distributed/handled by existing petrol stations. Its handling and distribution should be no problem at all since the modules are recharged/recycled/repackaged centrally so the petrol station only sells it to you, takes your depleted module back. If you need to stop every 300km for a short module swap, it would be absolutely acceptable.

      Similarly to Tesla, modules could be reserved when you start your trips (just like you reserve your supercharger slot) and the car could tell you where to pick up your next module.

      • Eco Logical

        Phinergy says it’s battery (aluminum-air fuel cell) is a range extender, short trips would be served by rechargeable Li-ion batteries. The 50 x 1 kg (2.2 lb) aluminum plates provide 1,600 km (1,000 miles) of extended range. The aqueous electrolyte needs a water top-up every 300 km or so. The aluminum plates need replacement every 1,000 miles. When the aluminum plates are replaced the aluminum hydroxide byproduct (sediment) is drained off into a holding tank at the service station. The aluminum oxide is sent to Alcoa’s nearest smelter where the aluminum is separated from the oxygen (using cheap, clean hydroelectricity) forming new plates which are sent back to the service station. It’s infinitely recyclable!

        • Yes, this is also what I gather from their videos and articles (although I was/am unsure how big Li-ion batteries they calculate with, for local trips)

          What I advocate for is that they build a system where you don’t need to go to dedicated service centers to switch out the (fairly big looking) Al-cartridge and drain the hydroxide. I feel that smaller, user-replaceable cartridges distributed at regular service stations would be much more appealing for users. This may compilcate things compared to their original idea (e.g. draining the hydroxide) but probably not insurmountable.

  • why mitsubishi imiev with 150KM range in the shops but not this technology?!

  • HarryDutch

    How can the cost of an Al-air system be roughly $1.1 per kg of aluminium anode. The current very low LME price is already $1.5/Kg. The anode would still need to be produced, packaged and transported to the market. Furthermore everyone in the supply chain will have to make a profit. The consumer would return the spent alumina to the same location “filling station” however, this is a complicated technical problem still to be overcome. The spent alumina (aluminium oxide) will need to be in a powder form to make it viable. I think as an alternative motor vehicle fuel this is a no-goer.