Zinc-air batteries need only Zinc, air and water to produce electricity via a simple oxidation reaction. The existing technology is quite mature; in hearing-aids for instance, Zinc-air batteries currently control a large share of the market. They are cheap to produce, high energy-density, and actually biodegradable. Moreover, Zinc is the fourth most abundant metal on earth and therefore Zinc-air batteries are not susceptible to materials shortages or production bottlenecks.
There are four traditional problems with zinc air batteries. APET’s Zinc Oxygen Energy (ZOE) system appears to have cracked them all:
Weight – The usual materials needed to create a zinc-air battery have always been heavy. APET have totally rethought the battery’s design, resulting in a battery which has twice as much Wh/kg (watt hours/kilogram) than a lithium-polymer (Li-Po) solution and four times as much as a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) one.
Cost – The traditional materials have also always been expensive, affordable only by the military. The same redesign has yielded a phenomenal reduction in price, with the production costs of a ZOE battery now estimated at one-tenth of a Li-Po solution and one-fifth of a NiMH one.
Reusable – Zinc air batteries have always had one problem: once the zinc inside has been exhausted, they’re dead and cannot be recharged. Most current zinc air solutions are made to be disposable (albeit biodegradable as well). The ZOE battery is designed to allow the casing to be taken apart and reused with a fresh batch of zinc.
Rechargable – Hang on, didn’t I just say that zinc air batteries cannot be recharged? Well they can’t, not in the traditional “plug it in” sense of the term. However, it’s an easy process to turn the waste zinc oxide back into zinc… all you need is heat (and lots of it). For this, APET have proposed building solar furnaces which will capture and concentrate enough of the sun’s heat to perform the chemical reaction.
* Zinc is the most efficient energy producing metal used in mainstream battery technology. Check.
* Zinc is the fourth most abundant metal on Earth and, unlike lithium, there is no foreseeable shortage. Check.
* Electrolysis is a simple and safe way of producing electricity with no harmful emissions or waste. Check.
* Electrolysis batteries need no external electricity source to “recharge”: the days of the plug-in umbilical cord are over. Check.
* ZOE batteries can be taken apart and the waste zinc oxide reconverted into zinc and reused. Check.
* APET will build solar furnaces to generate the heat needed to recover the zinc. Not a single power station has to be built to keep these batteries going. Check.
Like the Salamander these babies will live in water and be recharged by fire, which is why APET’s ZOE powered concept car is called… “The Salamander”.
ZOE technology is almost a closed loop process. It’s a bit like propane: you buy your canister and then pay to have it refilled.
However they’re not available in the shops… yet. But I hope they will be soon, because this isn’t just cool “pushing the envelope” WOW green technical innovation stuff.
If APET can prove their technology and bring it to market, it will be A Revolution—one which will change the face of EVs as we know it.